December 01, 2014


 Expanding, adapting cattle practice

​Veterinarians hear ideas on improving business and clinical practice

Posted Nov. 19, 2014

Acting instructor Greg Justice told hundreds of cattle veterinarians to show energy and passion in conversations with clients and colleagues. 

Agricultural economist Lowell B. Catlett, PhD—using sweeping arm movements and yelps of mock surprise—said the future will require unpredictable changes in what skills veterinarians will need.
“I want veterinarians smart enough to do things differently,” Dr. Catlett said.

Greg Justice (Photos by Greg Cima)

Justice, an associate professor in the School of Performing Arts at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and Dr. Catlett, dean of the New Mexico State University College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences, were among presenters at this year’s American Association of Bovine Practitioners annual conference who focused on helping veterinarians improve skills or adapt their businesses to changes. About 1,100 veterinarians attended the meeting Sept. 18-20 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

Justice described how audiences perceive more in actions and voice than in words, and he encouraged the hundreds in his audience to consider their volume, diction, tone, and inflection as well as to practice improving these components, if they want to make changes in their communication. Dr. Catlett described a need to adapt to rising global wealth, increased segmentation of food markets, increased volumes of and access to health data, new technologies for disease discovery and treatment, and improved understanding of the health benefits of such practices as increasing the physical contact among herd animals.

Adding to practice

Dr. John M. Davidson, who started his one-year term as AABP president during the meeting, said in an interview afterward, “To be successful and to remain relevant, some of the things that we’re doing now we’re going to have to modify and change.” For example, he said some veterinarians have difficulty telling clients what practices should be implemented and how they will benefit, and he hoped the Albuquerque meeting gave attendees new tools to engage those clients.

The mix of clinical and nonclinical sessions included ideas for how veterinarians can adapt to serve more markets and expand services for existing clients.

Dr. Andrea M. Mongini described opportunities for veterinarians in cattle medicine to add goat dairy–owning clients. Veterinarians can aid in feeding, breeding, identification, care, vaccination, disease prevention, and kid rearing. They also can help reduce production bottlenecks, stress to animals, and disease as well as raise standards of care. 


Lowell B. Catlett, PhD

Dr. Mark Wustenberg, vice president of quality and operations for Tillamook County Creamery Association, said veterinarians can help the dairy industry improve and meet growing global market demand by helping clients meet increasing quality standards. A rising number of companies that buy milk and produce milk-based products are, for example, testing for somatic cell counts, which they are using as indicators of quality, he said. 

Other sessions provided information on topics such as regulations, cattle handling, pathology, reproduction, practice building tools, and nutrition.

Dr. Davidson, who was chair of the meeting’s program committee, said, “My charge to the program committee last year was to identify continuing education content that would be immediately useful to the practitioners, that they could implement upon return to their practices, to reclaim lost opportunities.”

Diversity in instruction

Dr. M. Gatz Riddell, AABP executive vice president, thinks meeting attendees liked the diversity of speakers. The AABP tries to provide something unusual through nonscientific portions of the meetings.

And he noted that Dr. Catlett delivered a presentation during the AABP’s 1993 meeting, when audience members dismissed as crazy his idea that everyone would carry cellular phones within five years.

Dr. Riddell expects future challenges for bovine veterinarians will include determining how to serve larger clients as cattle industries continue a trend toward consolidation and how to help smaller clients that cannot compete with the economies of scale of the larger producers.