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Ad manus medici veterinarii

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

One thought on “Ad manus medici veterinarii

  • My comments to the text of our colleague from Slovenia are the following:
    Indeed, Herd Health & Productivity Management is (for yers now) the strong basis for our veterinary profession. There are, however, several requirements for implementing such programs. First, the vet must be competent in the various farming fields. Second, adequate professional communication with the farm manager must be applied by the vet. Third, education of the farm manager + farm workers is a necessity BEFORE implementing such a program. It goes far beyond the only Herd Fertility Scheme! An inventory of strong points and weak points on the farm in the different farming domains must be done BEFORE implementing a program.
    In Holland, we have given about a hundred seminars for farmers to explain what HHPM is and what it does contribute to the farm income and costs reduction.
    The strong and weak points inventory also points to the poorest performance in certain areas, where to focus on. Monitoring of the animals, their environment and the management is the basis for executing the program. And every time (after a scheduled fixed farm visit) a WRITTEN report must be handed over top the farm manager. That report comprises: findings of monitoring, conclusions, priority actions to be taken and other actions kept on hold. Take a look into the practical book ”Dairy Herd Health and Management” (CONTEXT Products Ltd, UK) to find supportive materials for the field.
    Drugs should never be the basis for current vet practice (see your own text), but that does not truly have ”added value” of the vet. Legislation should indicate what the farmer can administer and what not. In Holland the use of drugs in dairy has been reduced drastically over the past few years!! At the same time, many farmers have subscribed (!) to HHPM programs as a routine. But it all requires an investment from the vets in such programs! Good luck, Jos Noordhuizen


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