Monday, October 25, 2010

It's a Technological World

The farm vet spends much of his time on a computer entering and analyzing herd health information for his dairy clients. This is part of the routine on most dairy farms. The computer program is used to track medical treatments, illnesses, milk production, reproduction data, and family lineages. Each individual cow will have it's own "cow-card" and everything about it gets recorded and kept in that "cow-file". After the farm vet does a herd check, he will then go to the computer where all of the cow files are stored and enter what he has found that day.

This is a picture of a Psion. Some dairies use electronic ear tags that are assigned to each animals unique number or ID. The Psion can read this electronic (RFID) tag next to the cow's visual ID tag and then display that cow's file on the small screen. This enables us to look at all the information for that cow instantly which helps in making speedy and accurate decisions.

There are many benefits to using this computer program on a dairy. It is a management tool and they are able to track the overall health of their herds with graphs and charts. The farm vet will usually run through a mental list of trends he looks for in the herds. He can compare herds against each other, identify areas for improvement and areas that deserve praise!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Livestock and Climate Change

We have not tried to spur political debate with our blog posts thus far. We purely like to tell small stories about what a farm veterinarian does. This post is going to be a bit different. I recently saw a presentation by Dr. Frank Mitloehner from University of California, Davis. He is one of the authors of Clearing the Air: Livestock's Contribution to Climate Change. This topic is near and dear to us as our lives are so closely intertwined with livestock on a daily basis.

Livestock, especially cattle, have taken a beating in the press for the impact they may have on climate change. I am not saying there is no impact but I am genuinely surprised at how animal agriculture has become an easy scapegoat when there are much larger contributors to the problem. I think it has become very easy to criticize it because our food is not a scarcity. What is the REAL problem we have at hand?

I encourage everyone to click on the link highlighted above to read the research and conclusions of Dr. Mitloehner and his colleagues. It challenges some of the findings in the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization's report titled Livestock's Long Shadow which was published in 2006. Here is an excerpt from the conclusion of Clearing the Air which I find interesting: "Livestock production in most countries of the developed world (e.g., United States and Europe) has a relatively small green house gas (GHG) contribution within the overall carbon portfolios, dwarfed by large transportation, energy, and other industry sectors. In contrast, livestock production in the developing world can be a dominant contributor to a country’s GHG portfolio, due to the developing world’s significantly smaller transportation and energy sectors." At the least, please read the conclusions of the document. 

I agree that everyone has to do their part to help fix the problem. I hope that we take seriously the impacts of jumping to conclusions and not recognizing the work that has already been done to improve efficiency. Give credit where credit is due and let us work together to find solutions and not create more problems.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Farm Vet Makes the Front Page!

Last night the farm vet had two emergencies to tend to. Not getting home until after ten o'clock to eat dinner and the thought of an early morning herd check looming in the distance, he was tired to say the least.

This morning we had a wonderful surprise! The local newspaper, The Fresno Bee, had run a front page article on the shortage of farm veterinarians! The farm vet had been interviewed and pictured for the article but we did not know when it was going to be published and that it would appear on the front page. After a long night of emergencies it was nice to wake up to the newspaper giving recognition to food animal veterinarian's hard work. Here is the link to the article:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What Do You Picture When You Think of a Farm Vet?

The image of modern farms today can be somewhat misconstrued because people are unfamiliar with what a modern farm may look like. I think the same can happen with a modern farm veterinarian. Not necessarily the physical attributes of the vet, but the tools they use and the way they perform their jobs. Take this for example, I bought my husband a medical bag that he could use to carry some essential items in a hurry. That bag, with it's few essential items, rides around in our "family" vehicle in case one of us or one of our dogs gets injured unexpectedly! It's cute but it's just not suited for the modern farm veterinarian (silly me)!

Nowadays many of the farm vets drive around in a "vet truck" or something of that sort. The pickup trucks are fitted with a large box in the bed to carry all of the essentials. These come in different sizes depending on the needs of the vet. Since the farm vet does mixed practice, cattle, equine and the odd pig or goat, he needs to hold a wide variety of tools. This is what my little medicine bag has to contend with!

Advances in technology and medicine have improved the veterinary profession and the overall understanding of the health of the animals. You will see the symbol of the American Veterinary Medical Association on the back of the vet box. Here is some information I found on the internet:
The rod of Asclepius is an ancient symbol associated with astrology, the Greek god Ascelpius, and with medicine and healing. It consists of a serpent entwined around a staff. The serpent and the staff have various interpretations some of which represent the nature of the work of a physician, dealing with sickness and health, and life and death. The V superimposed over the serpent and staff is the symbol for the veterinarian.
So if you see a truck zooming around like there's no tomorrow with a vet box on the back, you can guess why they are in a hurry to get somewhere!