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Helping clients find and exploit added value is all about understanding their unique operations and the beef industry, especially the basics.
Unless you understand the goals of unique client operations and the industry surrounding them, Jessica Laurin, DVM, believes a veterinarian’s ability to help clients add value is limited. She began the Animal Health Center of Marion County (AHCMC) in Marion, KS, in 1996.
Some of those goals are straightforward enough.
For instance, more of Dr. Laurin’s cow-calf clients are shifting toward fall calving in an effort to market calves into the high value spring grass market.
“There’s a big difference between a client wanting to sell a 5-weight or 6-weight calf in the fall or an 8-weight in the spring,” Dr. Laurin says. Management changes with the goal.
Other opportunities to serve clients are less obvious.
Dr. Laurin’s backgrounding clients, mainly family operations, have increased the size of their enterprises significantly in recent years from a couple hundred head to several thousand. When winter weather backed up the sales in eastern markets last fall, which are a source for many of those clients, she knew morbidity among new arrivals would be more challenging. By understanding the industry and the risks faced by her clients, though, she could help them manage the health of those delayed arrivals more effectively.
“I think you have to look at where the money is for clients,” says Kevin Dickey, DVM, at Owl Creek Veterinary Service in Thermopolis, WY. “In this business, I think we have to constantly ask why we’re doing something. With the price of calves, I think this is a year when we have to really question what we’re doing or not doing.”
Dr. Dickey is a relative newcomer, setting up his current shop three years ago.
For instance, he’s encouraging clients who normally forego implanting to consider the dollars left on the table.
“Conservatively, an implant can give them 20 pounds more. At $2.20/lb. that’s another $44 per head,” Dr. Dickey says. Unless they have a commensurate premium guaranteed for all-natural calves, he sees no reason to ignore the opportunity.
“With what we do, we have to make clients money or at least reduce the risk of them losing money,” says Arlyn Scherbenske, DVM, at Steele Veterinary Clinic (SVC) in Steele, ND.
An increasing number of Dr. Scherbenske’s cow-calf clients work with him to pregnancy check cows via ultrasound. Besides verifying pregnancy and having a chance to manage open cattle sooner, earlier detection enables clients to sort and manage cattle by calving group.
Dr. Scherbenske began practicing in Steele in 1980.
Speaking of conception rates, Dr. Scherbenske says, “The average commercial producer we serve is concentrating more on their bulls than they ever have.” That includes managing and ensuring the fertility of bulls in use as well as focusing harder on the genetics of the bulls they buy.
Dr. Dickey is encouraging his clients to pay more attention to their bulls, including fertility evaluation and testing for trichomoniasis ahead of turnout.
“You spend more money on bulls than any other cattle on the place. Then, too often, they’re neglected,” Dr. Dickey says. “You have to protect yourself by managing the risk as much as you can.”
All of these veterinarians are also seeing clients utilize more synchronization and artificial insemination. Each of the clinics mentioned here provides these services to clients, too.
“I’m continually amazed by how much our clients know about genetics and genetic evaluation and how willing they are to learn more about it,” Dr. Scherbenske says.
Each of these veterinarians is also seeing growing interest among clients concerning genomics and genomics tests.