In the early 1990ies, when I was a young veterinary student, an eminent professor from a distinguished veterinary school gave several undergraduate courses on herd health and production management at my faculty in Slovenia. I was told that the modern veterinarian should no longer act only as a practitioner but rather should become an advisor to his/her clients. It was clearly pointed out that drug administration to the individual animal should be performed by the producer or other “trained” staff, “because veterinarians are too valuable and have more important things to do”. New legislation at that time gradually enabled producers in Europe to treat their own animals using medicines received through veterinary prescription and with veterinary advice. However, this approach finally resulted in veterinarians becoming redundant.
In my opinion, one of the most abused treatments was and still is mastitis treatment. Millions of intramammary infections were treated without a proper diagnosis and many more cows were dried off in a similar way. I remember one vet 25 years ago that decided to treat any case of acute mastitis intravenously. When asking him why he did this, he said it was the last route of drug administration left for veterinarians, the last veterinary treatment respected and feared by producers. “If I do not act this way”, he said, “I will be no longer needed”. Acting as he did, is of course questionable, yet it highlights the frustrations of bovine practitioners in order to keep their jobs relevant.
The public image of the livestock industry has become more and more problematic due to the emergence of antimicrobial resistance and because of animal welfare issues. It is a sad conclusion but the veterinary profession is sometimes hardly recognized as a part of the solution for these issues. The recent stir in the European parliament to ban specific antimicrobial use in veterinary medicine was a clear message in that respect yet also a good opportunity to start the discussion to get veterinary medicines back in the hands of the veterinarians.
Dr. Podpečan holds a DVM and PhD degree and is a practicing diplomate of the European College of Bovine Health Management. He is an associate professor at the Clinic for Reproduction and Large Animals and head of the National Center for Animal Welfare at the Veterinary Faculty of the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia.
Text and picture: Ožbalt Podpečan