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Just what exactly does a ‘relationship’ with a vet involve?

New rules will require vets to have a fuller understanding of an operation before prescribing

The changes that Health Canada will implement on Dec. 1 require there be a relationship between the veterinarian, the client, and the patient.

As the spokesperson and care provider for the patient — that may be animal, fowl, bee, or fish — it is important to know what that relationship requires.

Health Canada refers to this as the Veterinarian-Client-Patient-Relationship or VCPR. The VCPR is the basis on which the client (you) may receive a prescription for the patient.

What do you need to know before having a chat with your veterinarian regarding these prescriptions, especially if you are a distance from the actual practice? If things such as a scour bolus is included in the new Health Canada regulations, how do you access them in an emergency situation?

First, if you do not have a veterinarian for your farm, acreage, or pets, then you need to choose one. There are often several clinics closer to urban areas and great teams located in remote rural areas. Confirm a future meeting date.

In preparation, take an environmental scan of your farm in terms of actual physical space, processes, procedures, records, and growth projections. This is especially important if you have multiple enterprises that may require veterinarian care — such as working; dogs, cows and calves; a feed yard; hog barn; and beehives all under your management. The processes and procedures in each production area must be clearly articulated to your veterinarian.

In the scan take note of the physical spaces. Are they cleaned and well lit? How do the animals and humans in your care move through them? Are the heating, ventilation, electrical, and restraint areas to code and working properly?

What process do you have for genetic selection, breeding, birthing, culling, vaccinating, deworming, weaning, treating, moving, and monitoring your animals? Do you have the feed tested or hire a full-time nutritionist? What are the quality attributes of the feed? Where is that recorded and is the software user friendly?

If these processes are not recorded, now is a great time to put them into print and to develop standard operating procedures that all employees can tap into.

Speaking of employees, what is the role of each worker? Does the same person walk through the corrals, into the pig barn, and feed the dogs? Don’t leave anything out of the scan. The vet will be very interested if there is multi-species commingling or a risk of disease transfer. Knowing this helps to mitigate the risks in the seasons ahead.

Past history is critical in a new or ongoing relationship with your veterinarian.

If your farm is not part of any sort of certification or audit program, then going back to the calving book, computer records, or your benchmarking notes is important. Before the veterinarian arrives, determine what your level of incidence was with morbidity and mortality. How did you manage through this? Did you use antimicrobials, natural health products, allow for the disease to run rampant, or call a veterinarian at first case? Your history here will help the vet determine the script that needs to be on hand for your future needs.

Be prepared to also listen to ‘how to treat’ new cases that have a historical record. Sometimes we have the right product and the wrong process. Allow for time in your proposed meeting for guidance on how to handle prevention and cure for each activity on the farm. Accept that the meeting may be longer than you hoped as this visit is critical to setting up your required VCPR.

The more concrete and confirmed information the veterinarian has, the greater the opportunity to work together on framing the future. If bovine respiratory disease (BRD) has been a problem in the feed yard, examine all of the elements around the feed yard, and predetermine best course of action and treatment. Being advised on ‘how to’ treat and record these events will allow for the veterinarian to prescribe for future prevention and treatment. For example, a vaccination program may be recommended and a prescription issued for the historical percentage of calves that become sick. This way there is a new avenue of prevention and a script in play for this specific health event.

The prescription may reside with you and be filed at a recognized clinic, or reside solely with the prescribing veterinarian. Either way, there is an avenue through VCPR to ensure you have what you need when you need it. Disease situations outside of what was discussed with the vet will require evaluation. An outbreak of streptococcus in the pig barn will not be covered under your BRD script.

The VCPR is an opportunity to ‘take stock’ on what happens on your farm and how those activities are interrelated in terms of disease or production challenges. By doing this ahead of time and discussing it on site with your veterinarian, it allows for a potentially seamless transition into the new regulation.

About the author

AF Columnist

Brenda Schoepp works as an international mentor and motivational speaker. She can be contacted through her website at www.brendaschoepp.com. All rights reserved.

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