“We’re very fortunate that we have very progressive clients. That makes what we do more interesting and rewarding,” Dr. Scherbenske says. “For them, it’s not a matter of doing more or less based on the market. The value of the calf is important whether the market is up or down.”

So, even with 5-weight calves ringing the cash register at four figures, there is opportunity and desire by cattle producers to add and retrieve more value.

“If I can provide them something that provides insurance, it’s easy,” Dr. Laurin says. “You have to understand the industry and what their risks are.”

“You can buy a lot of preventative health care for the cost of losing one calf,” Dr. Dickey says. “What could we have done last spring so that we wouldn’t be sitting there this fall scratching our heads and trying to figure out what went wrong?”

Again, these veterinarians explain such opportunities need not be complicated.

Consider marketing.

Dr. Dickey preg-checked a top-drawer set of heifers for one client and found out they were for sale. He knew another client was looking to grow numbers. A phone call later and two clients were pleased with the added service he could provide.

Dr. Dickey also goes on sales calls with a seedstock client. Besides being able to offer insight into the health of that herd for his client’s prospective customers, it also allows him to learn more about the herds of current and prospective clients.

Dr. Dickey, BEEF VetDr. Dickey says this kind of added-value interaction earns him loyalty along the way. “I succeed when my clients succeed,” he says.

Similarly, if clients give their approval, Dr. Scherbenske and SVC provide buyers and potential buyers with information about client herds and calves.

One thing that has changed with increased calf value, Dr. Laurin says, is that some opportunities become more economically practical than in the past.

“My clients are more willing to spend money to protect their investment,” Dr. Laurin says. “That opens us up to the value of diagnostics more than was the case ten or 15 years ago.”     

When calves were worth less, clients were more reluctant to take on the added expense of diagnostics like PCR respiratory panels that Dr. Laurin can use to quickly alter the health management of pens based on the presence of specific pathogens.

Likewise, Dr. Laurin explains Mannheimia and Pasteurella vaccinations have more value to buyers of her clients’ cattle than just a few years ago.

Dr. Laurin also continues to evaluate feedlot software, trying to find a cost effective solution for her backgrounding clients. The software cost and monthly  fees associated with custom programs was prohibitive when calves were worth half as much. Now, the cost per head is getting more in reach.

“You have to take a value added approach with what you put into the cattle,” Dr. Laurin says. Deworming and implanting a client’s calves that will be marketed in two weeks, hence, makes little economic sense.

In all cases, Dr. Laurin says, “The only way added value is recognized is if it’s documented.”

Dr. Laurin’s clinic offered electronic identification and source verification services to clients several years ago but found it was too hard for them to retrieve added value based on the way they market their calves. Instead, a simple signed form she developed years ago continues to provide clients with verification of vaccinations and health management. It also provides auction markets supplement information that can be used on the auction block as client calves sell.

Some clients use vaccination programs developed by specific companies, while others use what AHCMC customizes for them.

Likewise, SVC helps clients verify calves through programs offered by various pharmaceutical companies. “I think those programs have really brought value to our clients,” Dr. Scherbenske says.

Dr. Dickey is seeing more of his clients market their calves direct. For clients only casually familiar with the process, that gives Dr. Dickey a chance to visit with them about weighing conditions and shrink management.

When it comes to identifying how to help clients add value, Dr. Scherbenske explains, “Some come seeking information. Some of them are ahead of us. Others are harder to reach. But, maybe you’re preg-checking for them. You can start asking questions and making suggestions.”

“As a vet, you have to understand so many areas,” Dr. Laurin says, giving a nod to one advantage of multipractitioner clinics like hers where staff members have various areas of expertise. “Finding quality continuing education that focuses on current topics is useful, too, like that offered at the Academy of Veterinary Consultants (AVC) in recent years.” She happens to be president-elect of that organization.

“As a vet, as you grow and mature and focus on areas of interest, that helps, too,” she says. In her case, nutrition has become a specialty.