Obviously, a veterinarian’s training and expertise will allow him/her the knowledge to help beef cattle clients create herd health programs including vaccination, parasite control and more.

But there’s more than just understanding the science behind vaccination and cattle health to truly providing a valuable service to clients.

Speaking at the 2012 Western Veterinary Conference, Mark Alley, DVM, MBA, North Carolina State University, said according to all study years of the National Animal Health Monitoring Service (NAHMS 1992-2007), veterinarians have been identified by the highest percentage of operations as a very important source of information.

“Veterinarians were not only considered very important sources for general information, but our profession is also considered to be very important for breeding and genetic information,” Alley said.

In the 2007 NAHMS, approximately one-half of all operations consulted a veterinarian for some reason during the previous 12 months, and larger producers (>200 cows) had more interactions with veterinarians (82.2% of operations) as compared to operations with fewer than 50 cows (43.2%).

Know more than just health
Veterinarians are in a unique position to aid in a farm-specific program for a client’s herd. However, it is imperative that the veterinarian understands the goal(s) of the producer, and doesn’t just look at the health program, Alley explained.

“Without this understanding of the true goals of the farm, it is impossible to develop a rewarding program that benefits all parties. Where the producer falls on the continuum of whether the operation is only for fun or only for money makes a large difference in how the program should be designed.”

There are many factors that influence the profitability of the farm, and veterinary/medicine expenses are rarely the deciding factor as to whether the farm is profitable, according to a 2010 study by Dhuyvetter and Langley of Kansas State University.

“However, it does reveal areas where veterinarians must spend some time educating themselves, so we remain a valuable resource for producers,” Alley noted. “Veterinarians can play a crucial role in helping with feed costs, labor management and potentially capital investments.”