I’m leaving the American Association of Swine Veterinarians annual meeting in San Diego, Cal., and heading cross-country to Orlando, Fla., for the Pork Industry Forum this week. While there is a lot of information to go through and distill, producers can feel secure knowing they have this dedicated army of professionals working on their behalf every day.

From Dr. Craig Rowles asking the audience to stand and repeat their professional oath, to Dr. John Waddell sharing his extensive student mentoring program, to Dr. Tim Loula encouraging his counterparts to take on an expanded role as spokespeople in the animal welfare arena, it’s clear swine veterinarians are doing everything in their power to help producers be successful.

Dr. Loula, with the Swine Vet Center, St. Peter, Minn., was the final speaker at the meeting. He emphasized the need for veterinarians to take a lead role in animal welfare discussions, even though it isn’t necessarily in their “job description.”

“In the past, producers were most concerned with their veterinarians helping them keep their pigs healthy,” he says. “Health is still a priority, but producers want and expect more… We’re being asked to serve as spokespeople and represent the industry.”

Loula says it would be easy to just sit back, observe and watch issues unfold, but producers are asking – and in some cases, demanding – that veterinarians take the lead.

“They don’t want just a team member – they often want a captain of the team. They believe we are experts on these issues. This expectation is a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity. It involves much more than just diagnosing disease and treating pigs.”

Like producers, veterinarians are increasing their knowledge of the issues faced by their customers. They’re taking public speaking/media training and becoming more involved in industry initiatives like Operation Main Street.

As Loula says, veterinarians are recognized as knowledgeable, professional, credible sources, so they need to stand up and be heard.

“We need to provide the science behind the concepts and explain how and why things work the way they do,” stresses Loula. “We need to push for what’s right – for the pig AND the people, which involves working with many sectors, both within and outside of the industry. We need to help our customers be the best they can be, and we need to help create a stronger industry.”