Veterinarian’s Corner: 5 Things Veterinarians Wished You Knew About Them
1. No one likes a 1 a.m. calving.
Veterinarians want to help farmers in every way and at any time they need it. We know this is part of the job. The farmer dreads having to make late-night vet calls, and the vet is probably not thrilled to wake up to a phone ringing in the middle of the night. But that phone call means a cow or calf may be in distress and a job needs to be done.
We realize budgets are tight and might not allow for extra expenses. However, calling us too early for a cow with a potential problem is always preferable to calling too late. When the cow is still early in the calving process, we have more treatment options to offer. It might also result in a shorter after-hours call.
Long story short, don’t wait. Call us when you need us.
2. We enjoy talking with farmers and learning about their lives.
We truly do enjoy talking with farmers, their families and their employees when we come out to the farm. One of the best parts of being a dairy cattle veterinarian is seeing clients on a regular basis, allowing us to establish long-term relationships. We become an important part of the farm, friends and even pseudo-family with many of our clients.
Often, our stops are filled with talk about the weather, crops, and cows, and we usually repeat these same conversations with many clients. While we do love to talk farming, we like talking to you about other things as well. We want to hear about your kid’s baseball game or your trip out of the state. We care about your hobbies (perhaps you’ll even encourage your vet to pick up a new hobby).
These conversations also help assure us that you’re focusing on life outside the farm and taking care of your physical and mental health. In these tough times, talking is key and we want to be there for you. We don’t want to lose any of our farmers because they had no one who wanted to listen when they needed it.
3. A million thoughts go through our head during a DA surgery.
As new graduates in veterinary medicine, a displaced abomasum (DA) surgery can be the most exciting and frightening thing we do. We are often taught to do surgery “in a way that allows us to sleep comfortably at night.” We’re concentrating hard to do everything right, and that’s why we may become frazzled if someone starts talking to us during the surgery.
After doing a few hundred of these surgeries, the process becomes very routine without too many surprises, we hope. With a few years of experience under his or her belt, a vet may master the art of having a conversation while doing a routine surgery without missing a beat.
But back to those surgeries with surprises. When unforeseen problems occur – such as adhesions on the abomasum, weird anatomy or an undiagnosed ulcer – we do have problems sleeping at night. We replay the surgery in our heads and think about what we could have done differently. Overall, we really want to make sure we’re better prepared to handle the situation if it happens again – for the sake of the cow and the farmer.
4. Not many vets have on-call shifts anymore.
The veterinary field has many specialists, including oncologists, cardiologists, neurologists and ophthalmologists. Many referral hospitals specialize in small animal emergencies, and there are cat-only clinics, exotic pet-only clinics, and clinics devoted to only holistic methods of treatments. The veterinary field is changing from the days of James Herriot, and so is the average veterinarian work schedule. Many veterinarians will never have a true on-call shift in their life. Some will never work a holiday or weekend.
Dairy cattle veterinarians are one group in veterinary medicine not experiencing these changes. You don’t have holidays or weekends off, so we don’t either. This can make it very difficult for our section of veterinary medicine to attract new vet school graduates to dairy cattle medicine. A new grad that comes to your farm has chosen a life and schedule similar to you, but increasingly uncommon among their peers.
5. We want to help.
Every day, we see the challenges you face and the tough choices you make. Many of us are in this profession because we were inspired by other farmers in our lives. We know our future and livelihood as dairy cattle veterinarians depend on farmers. To be honest, some days we go home at night feeling helpless and wishing we could do more for you.
We would love it if your veterinary bill was only for herd checks and management meetings. We wish we would never see another sick cow on your farm because all employee training and protocols worked perfectly. And we wish we could do more. Some days, it seems the only things we can offer is to continue to show up when called and listen when you need someone to listen.
If we can do something to help, we’re here to do it.
Starting Strong - Calf Care