What is in this article?:
“Production medicine is part of every-day veterinary medicine. As the veterinarian, you should always be thinking about the client’s total operation.
"Are you a ‘cow fixer’ or a ‘herd health veterinarian’? There is a big difference.” -- W. Mark Hilton
It’s Hard To Pigeonhole Client Interest
As mentioned at the outset, producers of a particular size or in a particular part of the world aren’t necessarily more or less likely to be interested in a production medicine relationship. But there are indicators.
Where he sees successful production medicine relationships, Dr. Maas says, “Number one, the ranchers are business people, no matter the size of the herd. They’re 110 percent vested in the cattle business for their income or they have come to ranching from another business. They understand inputs, outputs, shrink, all of the things that affect their bottom line.”
When Dr. Engelken was on faculty at Mississippi State University, he worked with folks in the agricultural economics department to survey beef producers in the state. The aim was trying to identify practices, demographics and characteristics that defined various levels of management.
“Obviously herd size made an impact. The larger the herd, the more time the producer devoted to herd management. These producers also utilized their veterinarian more often,” Dr. Engelken explains. “However, factors such as client age, education level, the number of extension meetings attended, serving as an officer for a cattlemen’s group and participation in seedstock production affected their level of herd management, as well as how they interacted with their veterinarian.
“That is a point that I try to drive into our students: If you want to come into contact with producers who would be willing to use consultation services, then you need to understand the characteristics of those producers. Our graduate veterinarians need to be involved with the local cattlemen’s groups, extension programs, as well as organized veterinary medicine. They need to be able to identify larger operations (especially seedstock) that are being operated by younger individuals who have an animal science or ag economics degree.
“Those are the producers who understand the impact that our profession can have on their bottom line. However, there are also smaller operations that want to do things the right way and will actively seek out this type of service, even though their cow herd is not their primary source of income.”
Conversely, Dr. Maas believes veterinarians willing to proactively forge new relationships and strengthen existing ones tend to have the most success providing consulting that goes beyond fixing problems.
“Clients call to ask questions. That’s the point at which veterinarians need to begin relationships,” Dr. Maas believes. “Maybe someone calls to ask about a particular vaccine. Also tell them how to handle it and how it should be administered. Ask them if they’re BQA certified.” Dr. Maas says.
“Then, figure out a way to follow up to see how they got along, at no cost to them. Maybe that leads to a chat about how they develop their heifers or what genetics they use and why,” Dr. Maas says. “Invest your time and energy into follow-up, so they understand that you’re the kind of veterinarian who is interested in their operation, not just someone who’s there when there’s an emergency or when they have a question.”
Some will grab the invitation immediately and do their part to establish the relationship. Others never will.
“Dedication to relationship is the important thing,” Dr. Maas says.
“The bottom line is that there may only be 15-20 percent of clients that will be willing to pay for a complete consultative type of program (nutritional management, record keeping, breeding season evaluation, economic analysis, etc.),” Dr. Engelken says. “But, they have been my best clients because without fail, they have all made me a better veterinarian.”