May 01, 2015


 Demonstrating values, expertise

Posted April 16, 2015
Dr. Ronnie L. Brodersen said integrity, intensity, and professionalism are priorities among swine veterinarians. 

He wants to demonstrate, to other veterinarians and the public, that members of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians have those values. 

“We feel that we are good stewards of animal health and good stewards of animal care, and we want to be perceived as a resource of knowledge on pigmanship, animal husbandry, and animal health,” he said in an interview. 

Asked how swine veterinarians will show the public that commitment, he said that is their challenge. 

Dr. Brodersen is the 2015-2016 AASV president. He took the office during the AASV Annual Meeting, held this year Feb. 28-March 3 in Orlando, Florida. 

Dr. Ron Brodersen (Photo by Greg Cima)

Dr. Brodersen grew up on a farm with pigs, cattle, and chickens near Coleridge, Nebraska, where his father and grandfather taught him how to give animals proper care, he said. A local veterinarian left a positive impression that stirred his interest in becoming a veterinarian.

His family’s farm began focusing on pigs while he was in college, and he did the same. He earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and his DVM degree at Iowa State University in 1979.

Many of the swine veterinarians were well-acquainted with each other, and he knew some who had taken roles in AASV leadership and who encouraged him to do the same, he said. He became committed to working in the organization as part of his fellowship with other swine veterinarians.

As Dr. Brodersen became AASV president, Dr. George Charbonneau became president-elect, Dr. Alex Ramirez became vice president, and Dr. Michelle Sprague became the immediate past president.

Existing, emerging disease a top concern

In addition to current challenges of advocacy, Dr. Brodersen said AASV members also are trying to reduce risks to a pork industry that has endured two years of a disease outbreak that killed millions of neonatal pigs and, according to figures from the Department of Agriculture, spread to at least 28 states.

Swine veterinarians have worked to reduce the spread of, and harm by, the coronavirus that causes porcine epidemic diarrhea.

Dr. Brodersen said AASV leaders also are concerned about the possibility another foreign animal disease could cause harm to pigs and the pork industry as well as risk human health.

For example, Dr. Brodersen said that, if the 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza virus strain had changed in certain ways, it could have been deadlier for people, pigs, and other animals.

The first PED virus strain was identified in April 2013 in the U.S., and an unrelated porcine deltacoronavirus discovered in early 2014 also causes disease with some clinical signs similar to those of PED. But the deltacoronavirus, which has spread to at least 19 states, has been associated with a lower mortality rate, according to USDA information.

Dr. Brodersen was chair of this year’s meeting, which included presentations on PED and the risks of other emerging diseases.

Softening tensions

During the 2014 meeting, two past presidents of the AASV and then-president Dr. Sprague indicated they had seen disagreements between the AASV and AVMA over animal welfare issues, particularly the use of individual gestation stalls to house pregnant sows. Dozens of grocery, restaurant, and catering chains have vowed—particularly since 2012—to eventually stop buying pork produced through use of such housing, and many have cited customer and advocacy organization criticism about the limits individual stalls place on sow movement.

Dr. Brodersen thinks a divide remains between the AASV and many members of the AVMA on certain welfare practices, including use of gestation stalls, he said. But the AVMA has since enacted a sow housing policy that he sees as a compromise that not only fits the AVMA but also is something members of AASV and AVMA can agree on.

“So, I think we’ve accomplished a lot in this last year with the new sow housing policy,” he said. “Hopefully, that will help to soften the tensions that there have been in the past.”

The AVMA now advocates for giving pregnant sows room to move and housing them in ways that reduce stress as well as encourages research on pregnant sow needs.