I am honored and deeply humbled to have been nominated to run for the office of vice president of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV). The association has always benefitted from the experience and knowledge of our past officers, and it would be a privilege to follow in their path. I request your vote in this election.
Not all issues important to our membership and association can be addressed in this space, so I encourage you to contact me if you have specific concerns or opportunities you feel the association needs to address. Many of our concerns are ongoing issues, like antibiotic use and how we care for and house swine. There will be different concerns in the future, such as new or re-emerging diseases.
In our geographic region, we have a lot of center pivot irrigation. This results in fields that are large circles instead of traditional squares or rectangles. Local and regional businesses have tapped into the multiple meanings of the phrase “full circle” and incorporate the term into their business name or marketing materials. It has caused me to reflect on some of the challenges our profession faces, and how some of them are the same challenges we have always faced, and some are new. For example, we seem to have come full circle with the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) challenge, and now it occupies the position of concern that transmissible gastroenteritis virus previously held. In addition, attributes of food production have always been of concern to society. Think Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle,1 the activities of animal rights activist groups, and the regulatory and legislative actions around antimicrobial use. These issues seem to ebb and flow or go in circles of low and high intensity.
Technology is a major influence on the circles that influence us. For example, the way we listen to music has undergone dramatic change in the last 35 years. When I was young, you had to listen to the radio for hours to hear your favorite song, or you had to buy the cassette tape for your Sony Walkman. Now we have satellite radio and the likes of Pandora where you can customize stations to your specific taste. The interest in different music genres goes through circles of popularity, while the way we listen has evolved in dramatic ways.
The way we communicate is another area that has seen many changes. Not long ago, I showed my kids a picture of a rotary phone. They could tell it was a phone, and asked a lot of questions about how it worked. In contrast to the past, we no longer have a landline at our house and rely solely on our cell phones and Internet connection for personal communication. About the only time we send a letter is for thank-you notes. In our business, bills are paid on line and other communication is by cell phone, text, or e-mail. We still have a fax line at our office, but it forwards documents to our e-mail instead of printing a hard copy. We still communicate using verbal and written means, but the way we do it has changed in dramatic ways.
In contrast, other technologies have been relatively static. The work boots I wear are essentially the same as those that my parents and grandparents used. Zippers, patented in 1893, work so well that I am betting they will still be in use for another 123 years. This contrast of change and status quo is driven by functionality. In other words, what works the best eventually dominates.
So how is technology going to influence the challenges our profession and association face?
In very simple terms, for some challenges or opportunities, our choices are to hang onto our rotary phones or accept the new communication technology of the digital age. For others, we need to discern if the challenges are just circles of interest and can be handled using the technologies and practices we have used for years, like zippers and boots.
1. Technology affects how we fight disease. It may be in the processes we use to raise pigs, or it could be a specific product like a vaccine. For example, batch farrowing is making a resurgence in our area as a response to the PEDV challenge and as a way to source larger numbers of “single-source” pigs. Vaccine technology can play a major part in the elimination of disease as it did for pseudorabies virus, or in control as with porcine circovirus type 2.
2. Technology influences how we communicate. Rather than guessing what people are interested in, tools like Google Analytics report in real time the information for which people are searching. Savvy influencers use this information to be more effective in communicating their message.
3. Technology influences the speed that we need to make change. Think “treadmill theory,” where you have to adopt new technologies faster and faster over time to maintain your same competitive position.
4. Technology influences our “brand.” It can enhance our efforts to promote our profession and association, or it can be used by detractors to take away our influence.
I ask for your vote and look forward to serving on the executive board of the AASV. We have a fabulous organization through the efforts of our members, staff, committee chairs, and board leadership.
1. Sinclair U. The Jungle. New York, New York: Knopf, Doubleday & Company; 1906.