Following his undergraduate degree in Animal Science at the University of Guelph, Dr. Brian Keith completed a Master of Science at the University of Guelph specializing in bovine reproduction. He graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College in 2006. After graduation Dr. Keith worked in his hometown at the Cobden Animal Centre as a mixed practitioner for a year and a half. In 2007, he moved to the Prescott Animal Hospital where he took a strictly large animal position doing mainly bovine veterinary medicine. In 2010, Rideau-St. Lawrence Veterinary Services was formed from the large animal services of the Prescott Animal Hospital and a neighboring clinic. Currently, the practice is a five-vet large animal practice where his primary focus is on dairy production medicine and health prevention. Dr. Keith's main interests are herd health management, transition cow management, lameness prevention, calf health, reproduction, and dairy facility design. Outside work, Dr. Keith spends valuable time with his wife Deena and beautiful daughter, Madeline. In his spare time he enjoys travelling with his family, playing hockey and skiing in the winter and baseball and golf during the summer.
What types of changes are you working to implement on farms and ranches?
Too many herds have historically managed their dry cows with little attention, feeding the lowest quality feeds on the farm and housing them in facilities that are detrimental to their performance after calving. Dry cows require good quality, palatable feeds and exceptionally comfortable facilities to maximize feed intakes, which contributes to improved cow health and production in the following lactation. This has been an important focus in all my herds in an effort to see them perform at their highest level possible.
In order to help my dairy clients make continued progress in their herds, I do extensive performance monitoring in areas of reproduction, production, fresh cow diseases, udder health, calf and heifer performance, and herd culling. I encourage a high level of data recording by my producers in order for me to do accurate analyses. This allows me to sit down with my clients to identify areas where the herd excels and areas where there’s opportunity for greater success. In the areas where there is opportunity, we discuss ways to improve performance and institute the required management changes. Continual herd monitoring then allows us to evaluate the changes made and tells us whether it was beneficial or not.
If you could take urban consumers to visit a farm or ranch, what are the first things you would show them or tell them?
I would take them to a newly built freestall barn with properly designed, deep-bedded sand stalls and spacious alleys. This is the ultimate in comfort for dairy cows, allowing maximum production and cow welfare and limiting the common problems in our dairy herds- lameness, poor cow longevity, and mastitis. I’m currently helping design this type of barn and I am extremely excited to see this herd perform once the cows get moved in. I would point out how our industry is moving in the right direction by designing facilities with the intention of ultimate cow comfort and well being, and emphasize that Canadian dairy producers’ primary concern is the health and comfort of their cows because they know healthy cows produce the highest quantity and quality of milk.
What are some of the most satisfying aspects of your work as a veterinarian?
The number one thing is working with my dairy clients. I’ve formed some very good relationships with my dairy producers, who are friendly, dedicated, hard-working people. They strive for optimal health and performance in their herds, and it’s so rewarding being part of the team striving to make that happen. The second thing would be how I spend my day. I’m out on the road going from farm to farm doing herd healths, working with sick animals, or doing consultative work. Every day is different, and every day brings a new challenge. I enjoy working with cows and have since I was a young boy. They are amazing animals. Docile, friendly, easy to work with and they have a wonderful, laid-back demeanor.