Bovine veterinarians must reposition themselves as key players in food production to shape the future of animal agriculture, according to Dr. Roger L. Saltman, incoming president of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners.
During the recent AABP conference in Omaha, Neb. (see story), many of the educational sessions touched on the external forces that seek to change the cattle industry without obtaining stakeholders' perspectives on the issues. Dr. Saltman, speaking at the business meeting, said the AABP will continue to ramp up its ability to defend animal agriculture and bovine practitioners.
Dr. Roger L. Saltman (left), president of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, works with a dairyman in upstate New York. Dr. Saltman is group director of U.S. cattle veterinary operations for Pfizer Animal Health.
"The major mission for AABP has been one of education, and I think most of us in this room owe a great debt of gratitude to the AABP for the continuing education that has really helped to round out and make us more vigorous as veterinarians after we graduated from veterinary school," Dr. Saltman said.
"But folks, in the last year or two, even though education remains our major mission, there are storms that are abrewing. We've seen just this year a number of assaults on animal agriculture and, indeed, perhaps on our role in animal agriculture."
Medicine plus agriculture
Dr. Saltman, currently the group director of U.S. cattle veterinary operations for Pfizer Animal Health, came to bovine practice through a somewhat indirect route.
He grew up in what was then still a semiagricultural area, home to a number of dairy farms, in southeastern Los Angeles County. Planning to become a physician, he went to Princeton University, but soon his interest in dairy farming led him to begin visiting a nearby operation.
After graduating from Princeton, he and a friend bought a small dairy farm in upstate New York. He farmed for five years, working part time as an improvement supervisor for local dairy herds.
"I realized my interest in medicine and my interest in agriculture could intersect nicely if I went to veterinary college," Dr. Saltman said in an interview following the AABP conference.
"I'm involved because I have a deep and abiding interest in veterinary medicine and in animal agriculture. I'm part of veterinary medicine, and being part of it, I feel like I want to be active in helping veterinarians and veterinary medicine to prosper and to have veterinarians assume their appropriate role in helping to create and maintain a healthy, safe, affordable, and abundant food supply."
–DR. ROGER L. SALTMAN, PRESIDENT,
AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF BOVINE PRACTITIONERS
So, Dr. Saltman attended veterinary college at Cornell University to become a bovine practitioner. After graduating in 1981, he worked in mixed animal practice in central New York for six years. He became an advocate for production medicine and developed a full portfolio of practice services—not only disease diagnosis and treatment but also ration formulation, nutritional consultation, and records analysis.
In 1987, Dr. Saltman joined American Cyanamid to work on a product then in development—bovine somatotropin. He also took part in other research and technical services consultation. In 1998, he became a technical service consultant for Pharmacia and Upjohn's Dairy Strategic Business Unit, which Pfizer acquired in 2003.
Throughout his career, Dr. Saltman has been active in the AABP. Because of his interest in computers—he bought his first personal computer in 1984—he became chair of the AABP Information Management Committee. Because of his expertise in on-farm accounting systems, the AABP asked him to help set up the association's computer bookkeeping when the office moved to Rome, Ga., in the early 1990s. Starting in 1994, Dr. Saltman served the organization in multiple roles—as treasurer, board member, vice president, and then president-elect.
Dr. Saltman also is active with his alma mater and state veterinary association, and he has served as president of the Professional Agricultural Consultants of New York.
"I'm involved because I have a deep and abiding interest in veterinary medicine and in animal agriculture," Dr. Saltman said. "I'm part of veterinary medicine, and being part of it, I feel like I want to be active in helping veterinarians and veterinary medicine to prosper and to have veterinarians assume their appropriate role in helping to create and maintain a healthy, safe, affordable, and abundant food supply."
As AABP president, Dr. Saltman wants to focus on all three areas in the association's mission statement—to provide continuing education, offer leadership on issues critical to the cattle industry, and improve career opportunities in bovine practice.
The AABP's online CE is now up and running, Dr. Saltman said. The association developed a number of CE modules during the past year and will develop even more modules in the coming year. Dr. Saltman will work to increase member awareness of the resource, which is part of a collaboration with Kansas State University. The online CE costs $55 per hour and is available at www.aabp.org/ce.
Dr. Saltman expects to spend a lot of time advocating for animal agriculture as public attention heightens on issues such as antimicrobial use and animal welfare.
"Animal welfare, or animal well-being, will be a continually developing issue in the minds of the public," Dr. Saltman said. "And it's actually a very important issue for us as veterinarians. Part of our mission as veterinarians is to ensure that animals are kept in appropriate facilities and are treated properly."
As for shortages of practitioners in food supply veterinary medicine, Dr. Saltman is optimistic that the AABP's outreach to veterinary students is beginning to increase student interest in bovine-exclusive or mixed animal practice. The AABP provides funds for student chapters, externships, and scholarships. The annual meeting features student sessions, student case presentations, and a job fair.
Dr. Larry R. Corry, AVMA president, also spoke at the AABP conference during the business meeting. He updated AABP members on various AVMA activities, such as work in the areas of legislative advocacy and veterinary education. The AVMA is fighting federal legislation to restrict use of antimicrobials in food animals, for example, and participating in the North American Veterinary Medical Education Consortium to examine the future of veterinary education.
The AABP announced new officers and district directors at the business meeting. Joining Dr. Saltman as AABP officers are Drs. Christine B. Navarre, Baton Rouge, La., president-elect; Brian J. Gerloff, Marengo, Ill., vice president; and Richard L. Wallace, Champaign, Ill., immediate past president.