Good relationship with veterinarian can pay off

The Alberta Veterinary Medical Association has formalized five points for a veterinary client patient relationship:

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Scott Hand manages JX Cattle Ranch in Texas and has learned the value of having a good veterinarian.

The ranch has about 500 commercial cows, which need treatments, pregnancy checks and other services. His vet, Keelan Lewis, offers producer education sessions to share information on emerging diseases, vaccines that might be needed for local conditions and other health tips.

“It is better than coffee shop advice,” he said during a session at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association convention, which was held in San Antonio Feb. 4-7.

Having a good veterinary client patient relationship (VCPR) is needed to obtain prescriptions for certain animal care products, but it can also benefit a producer in other ways.

Cattle producers and veterinarians face new regulations, but more technology and information are also available for improved herd health and productivity.

More responsibility is placed on the veterinarian, who needs to know about the client’s operation and be readily available to provide ongoing care and emergency service, said Lewis.

She offered some practical tips in building that relationship during a session.

Rural vets may travel long distances to meet with clients, and finding a good match is becoming more difficult.

“When considering selection of your veterinarian in the development of a VCPR, remember, there are fewer and fewer people who want to do what I do on a daily basis,” she said.

The practitioner needs to know the goals of the operation and the producer needs to be clear on what is expected from a veterinarian.

“Consider what you want from your veterinarian relationship when you are selecting a veterinarian,” she said.

“If your cows have names, I am not your veterinarian. We will not get along,” she said.

“If you do not want a veterinarian involved in your operation at all, then I am also not your veterinarian.”

Consider interviewing a new vet by offering a small job.

“Don’t pull out your 500 cows to preg check that day and assume that is going to turn out well,” she said.

Veterinarians also have different interests and specialties. For example, Lewis does not feel comfortable working with dairy cattle because the care and diseases are different.

“Your vet might not always be good at what you want them to do, but if they are interested or willing to try, then there is a whole lot of value in that relationship,” she said.

A large generational shift is also occurring among vets in which more old-timers are retiring. Find out if the retiree has hired a replacement or is closing the practice.

When working with a young veterinarian, be patient and be clear on what is wanted because a two-way conversation is better.

“There is a lot of value in a fresh education. There is also a lot of value in age and time in the chute,” she said.

“Provide grace and poise to allow them to get there.”

Some clients only want disaster control, but that is not necessarily the job of a consulting veterinarian. Conversely, other clients have asked vets from Lewis’s practice to accompany them when they buy bulls to evaluate the new prospects for soundness.

“We are helping to establish production outlines before the animal is even in the operation,” she said.

“Think specifically about what you are wanting a veterinarian to do. Don’t just throw up your hands and say, ‘my vet is not helpful and my government is making more rules and I don’t want to deal with that.’ ”

Canadian producers also need to establish a veterinarian client patient relationship. It does not have to be a written agreement but should be inclusive so the practitioner knows the operator and farm and sees how animals are cared for. The veterinarian should have some record of animal health treatments, but this does not necessarily mean a farm visit.

The vet needs to be confident the producer is responsible in following advice and using products properly.

Since December 2018 a prescription has been required for products containing antimicrobials, so this relationship needs to be in place.

Developing a successful relationship

The Alberta Veterinary Medical Association has formalized five points for a veterinary client patient relationship:

  • The veterinarian has assumed responsibility for making clinical judgments regarding the health of the patient (livestock) and the client has agreed to follow the veterinarians’ instructions.
  • The veterinarian has sufficient knowledge of the patient to initiate a least a preliminary or general diagnosis of the medical condition. The veterinarian needs to be acquainted with the keeping and care of the livestock by virtue of a timely examination of the herd or individual animals by the veterinarian, or medically appropriate and timely visits by the veterinarian to the farm or ranch.
  • The veterinarian is readily available for follow-up evaluation and has arranged for emergency coverage and continuing care and treatment.
  • The veterinarian provides oversight of treatment, compliance, and outcome.
  • Patient records are maintained.

Source: Beef Cattle Research Council

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