This information was obtained from a “Skills and Tools for Practitioners” seminar during the 2004 American Association of Swine Veterinarians Annual Meeting.
As a swine veterinarian, when your clients call, you are expected to come to them with specific answers and solutions to their questions and problems, says William Hollis, DVM.
“Often, our herd visits run the range of (focusing on) ventilation, nutrition, production, and disease,” says Hollis, a swine veterinarian with Carthage Veterinary Service, Ltd, Carthage, Ill. “The risk is that we may identify a multitude of opportunities for influence and fail to achieve the main reason for the initial visit.”
Clients expect you to bring answers to their questions and proposed solutions to their problems when you make a call to their pork production system, according to Illinois swine veterinarian William Hollis.
“Health is why the phone rings and why we are most often called in as a primary decision influencer,” Hollis says. “There are high-quality specialists in other areas of influence, but if we are expected to solve the health issue,we must understand how these other areas will affect the success of our proposed solution.
“Understanding all of the challenges that lie before a farm and then identifying those areas that will have the greatest impact are key to a successful client relationship. In my experience, it is far easier to come up with hundreds of small problems and identify a multitude of tasks that need accomplished. It is much more difficult to hone in on those key areas that will have the greatest influence and then develop the necessary implementation plan to be successful.”
In short, Hollis emphasizes, swine veterinarians need to get to the point in consultation as quickly as possible. This entails the following emphasis areas:
Knowing your clients expectations.
Prioritizing the visit. This includes a list of priorities before you enter the facility, adding to the list as you ask questions and make observations, changing priorities as necessary, summarizing and assigning accountability.
Among other things, according to Hollis, answering the following questions can help to prioritize: Do you and the owners have the same health goals and expectations in mind? Do you and the client agree on the direction the system is heading?
The following case examples show that solving swine disease problems continues to be a big reason why the phone rings in a veterinary clinic or veterinary consulting business, according to Hollis.
“We still go to the farm to solve the disease problem. The challenge is to identify all the outlying contributors to disease and then hone in on which is the most important in a step-by-step manner. Our pathologists continue to remind us that we are not taking nearly enough diagnostic samples for making the decisions in the populations we serve. I further challenge that we are not looking at nearly enough opportunities for improving the production system.
“All of us are challenged with setting priorities on these opportunities and identifying which team member will be the advocate at the farm. For the case examples to follow, there was at least one person identified who was the advocate of the implementation of change.”
Hollis adds that it is a helpful practice to fax the on-farm advocate of change on a regular basis. “Dropping routine faxes for checklists or updates on the implementation steps has been rewarding to me as a consultant and has assisted that producer in accomplishing the goal.
Most farm systems we visit have on-farm faxes for reporting inventories, feed, and other items.
Case 1: Easy problem – difficult solution
A 600-sow farrow-to-finish operation, considered an old family production system with a presumed low cost of production. The owners of this herd have utilized Carthage Veterinary Service on a consultation basis only and not for regular health visits. They do most of their own diagnoses and treatment regimens with quarterly or annual consultation advice.
Four years ago, they used considerable consultation on developing a wean-to-finish barn and the design and flow of a wean-to-finish barn. As a single-site farrow-to-finish, they chose to build a four-room 2,000-head barn to fill with 500 pigs per room or two-week fill per room.
A swine health challenge is a primary reason that you will get a call from a client, says Illinois swine veterinarian William Hollis.