cowFarmers and veterinarians have always relied upon each other, working collaboratively to ensure the health of hogs, horses, chickens, goats and cattle since the dawn of livestock production. But the nature of those partnerships has evolved to meet the holistic health needs of the business in unprecedented ways.

“The majority of the work now is in the subclinical area, meaning that there are no signs of sickness,” says Dr. Dave Rhoda, a dairy farm veterinarian who’s been practicing for 50 years.

In days past, it was far more common for Rhoda to receive an emergency call to treat a sick animal, and that still happens, of course. But the vast majority of his time is now spent on preventative health strategies and data recording of markers like somatic cell count, ketosis and milk fever.

“Because we are selling a food product every day, the dairy cow is the one that we really pay a lot of attention to how she’s feeling and what things we can use to treat her with,” Rhoda says. As for the human relationships, “They get stronger and stronger, because we’re working regularly as a team. The vet, the owner or manager and all the people who work cow-side.”

That team might include multigenerational family members, nutritionists, University of Wisconsin-Extension agents, equipment dealers or even loan officers, says Dr. Ray Pawlisch of Brodhead Veterinary Medical Center, in practice for 35 years.

“Teamwork provides the best kinds of solutions, and developing those relationships over time establishes trust,” he says.

Emergencies aside, Pawlisch and his team perform farm visits multiple times a week to check for reproductive problems, vaccinate cattle, perform surgeries or strategize protocols. They’re also sending samples to the Wisconsin Veterinarian Diagnostic Laboratory for testing almost every day.

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“We try to prevent problems and manage around them so we don’t have all these emergencies.”

But ultimately, Pawlisch says, it’s still all about those human relationships. Veterinarians know all the farm dogs by name. They know whose daughter is off to college, whose son just got married. They attend weddings, graduations and funerals.

“My mission statement is to promote health, and educate and encourage farm families,” Pawlisch says. “There’s not a more dedicated group. This is their business and their life and they really are dedicated to the health of those animals.”

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