Fresh out of veterinary school, Gregg Hanzlicek, DVM, Ph.D., began working at a dairy-focused veterinary practice in Wisconsin. There, veterinarians were often a major resource for nutritional consulting as well as animal health. The interplay between the two allowed practitioners to help holistically address challenges.
When Dr. Hanzlicek started his own practice, Bovine Production Services in Amelia, NE, his cow-calf clients weren’t expecting their new veterinarian to talk about nutrition, but consulting was something he felt strongly about including.
“On the dairy side, most people understand that nutrition is the foundation for everything,” Dr. Hanzlicek says. “Having that dairy background did help me start ranchers with the idea that nutrition is important. It’s a huge economic part of the cow-calf operation. At least 50 percent of expenses have to do with feed.”
Starting small, he first offered to simply test forages and help balance rations. Dr. Hanzlicek later included body scoring the herd, ration formulation and building a custom mineral program for clients based on specific deficiencies in their pasture. Recommendations were backed up with estimates for savings in feed costs and improvements in animal health.
Paying for nutritional services was a change for most of his customers, but he emphasized the direct connection with improved production. Body condition and nutrition at calving is a key to calving success—resulting in less dystocia, improved neonatal calf health, a reduction in scours and fewer incidences of preweaning pneumonia, Dr. Hanzlicek notes.
“None of them are going to switch without having something on paper to show an economic benefit,” he says. “I could talk about interaction between nutrition and production. That connection made people start thinking maybe a veterinarian is the correct person to be providing these services.”
Nutrition consulting also made a difference in his practice by adding services in the summer months. In addition, it helped him develop a stronger relationship with his clients and put him on their operation more times a year. Typically, Dr. Hanzlicek visited four times a year just for nutritional consulting in addition to traditional pregnancy checking and breeding soundness examinations.
“We were on the facility at least six times a year,” he says. “Being there more often gave us fresh eyes on the cows and built stronger relationships with clients, not to mention a steady income.”
Not all veterinarians have tools to immediately add nutritional consulting to their practice. Dr. Hanzlicek invested in additional education while he was in practice and continued that philosophy all the way to earn a doctorate in veterinary epidemiology. Now, he serves as the director of Production Animal Field Investigations at the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. However, his clients still rely on him to travel back to Nebraska several times a year to continue consulting.
“I never had a cow-calf operator that started the service quit,” he says. “I was providing a service not offered in that part of the country before.”