The consulting veterinarian on the feedyard management team: Objective measurements for subjective decisions (Proceedings)

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The consulting veterinarian on the feedyard management team: Objective measurements for subjective decisions (Proceedings)

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Aug 01, 2009

The objectives, or mission, of the consulting veterinarian include, but are not limited to

1. Design vaccination & cost-effective treatment programs, and then to:
a) monitor compliance by feedyard personnel and management to these programs, and
b) monitor animal performance, and therefore, performance of the prescribed health program
c) regularly monitor seasonal and population-specific cost-effectiveness of the prescribed program

2. Provide training and education to feedyard personnel in areas of timely detection of disease and assessment of severity, clinical diagnosis and treatment, selection of appropriate and cost-effective therapy, necropsy diagnosis, quality assurance compliance, hospital pen management, drug inventory management, and animal behavior and handling.

3. Convey and filter information presented to feedyard management and personnel by sales people, manufacturers of animal health and production products, and that found in the popular press.

4. Benchmark health performance and effectiveness of feedyard personnel compared to other feedyards in the database.

5. Serve as a sounding board for management as they explore decisions regarding personnel and animal health management.

6. Defray liability of management for custom cattle feeders.

Successful accomplishment of these objectives makes the consulting veterinarian and effective member of the feedyard management team. However, it must be understood that these objectives are continually adjusted for seasonal effects and population differences. The challenge for the consulting veterinarian is to "stay ahead of the curve" in areas of feedyard population dynamics, available technologies, and the current veterinary scientific literature.

Design vaccination programs and cost-effective treatment regimens

The process of designing vaccination programs and cost-effective treatment regimens should be data driven and "custom built" for a particular feeding operation. Different operations have different objective. For example, some feedyards exist to profit from availability of by-products from other agricultural industries. Other feedyards specialize in managing and acclimating freshly weaned, "walking and bawling" calves, while others primarily place high-risk cattle from geographic regions where cattle are produced in small numbers on small, part-time "hobby" farms and then commingled as they proceed through marketing channels. These cattle are typically mismanaged, i.e. lack vaccination, surgical procedures such as castration and dehorning, failure of passive transfer, lack identification, and represent calves that are born throughout the year, without regard for a calving season. Therefore, these cattle are at high-risk of developing disease following arrival to the feedyard, particularly respiratory disease. The time spent in marketing channels for these "immunologically fragile" animals further exacerbates the risk of developing disease in the feedyard due to exposure to animals and fomites capable of transmitting a broad spectrum of pathogens.

Understanding principles of critical review of the literature and information presented to feedyard management is essential for the consulting veterinarian. Review of the literature for well-designed studies that meet criteria of sound scientific design provides for recommendations that have the highest probability of success for a given population.

Following design of vaccination programs and treatment regimens, the consulting veterinarian monitors feedyard personnel and management for compliance to these programs. It is impossible to determine the effectiveness of a program or recommendation if the recommendation is not being followed, or is being followed sporadically or inconsistently. Monitoring compliance to recommended programs involves effective and transparent communication with the feedyard crew and review of feedyard computer records.

Once it is established that the crew is compliant to recommended programs, the individual program or recommended regimen can be evaluated for effectiveness. In the event of non-compliance to recommended programs, the consulting veterinarian determines why this is the case and works to adjust perceptions and cause-and-effect observations.