People Management: Working with Your Veterinarian

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 Take home message | Introduction

This is a fact sheet from the People Management section of the Alberta Feedlot Management Guide, Second Edition published September 2000. The 1200 page guide is available for purchase on CD-ROM.

Take Home Message

The goal of a feedlot health program should be to optimize animal production by addressing both clinically apparent disease as well as underlying health problems that may impair production efficiency. Good records are essential to monitoring production and form the basis of informed decisions. In addition to services offered by your veterinarian, he/she can also assist in coordinating additional expertise where needed. Scientific information available on feedlot animal health and performance is large and health programs can range from simple to complex. With this in mind the health program should fit with the goals and objectives of each feedlot operation.


As animal agriculture has moved from traditional farming practices toward larger, more efficient, intensive operations, the need for specialized comprehensive animal health and production consultation has emerged. Although individual animal problems are still of concern, there has been a shift away from veterinary services emphasizing the treatment of individual animal health problems toward services that focus on preventive animal health. Since health and performance are closely related, addressing underlying health problems within the herd increases production efficiency. This approach to animal health is commonly referred to as herd health, health management or production medicine.

The goal of any health management program should be to optimize production within the objectives of each feedlot operation. Essential to accomplishing this is a record keeping system capable of managing the large database of information generated in feedlot production. Increasingly powerful, affordable computer systems as well as continuing improvements in software have made computerized records an indispensable tool in feedlot management. The ability to analyze health records, performance data, carcass information, etc. as well as determining the cost effectiveness of health management recommendations forms the basis for informed management decisions.

The rapidly increasing body of knowledge on feedlot health and production has allowed veterinarians with an interest in this area to devote their time largely or exclusively to managing feedlot health programs. Additionally, veterinarians have strong alliances with specialists in a variety of related fields. This includes diagnostic laboratory personnel, technical support veterinarians from the pharmaceutical industry, nutrition and feed industry specialists, agriculture engineers, etc. Through direct and ongoing involvement in the health management of the feedlot, the veterinarian assumes an important role in recognizing the need for additional expertise and coordinating a team approach to solving health and production problems.

Feedlot production programs, although now prevalent throughout the industry, vary widely in the services delivered and the degree of ongoing veterinary involvement. Areas that may be addressed in a health management program include:

  • diagnosis and treatment protocols for sick animals;
  • vaccination strategies/risk analysis;
  • post-mortem examinations as part of an ongoing disease surveillance program;
  • assistance in managing day to day problems (e.g.) unusual medical conditions, minor surgeries;
  • parasite control programs;
  • implant programs;
  • nutritional management;
  • implementation and monitoring of health and performance records;
  • employee training and evaluation;
  • carcass quality issues;
  • marketing strategies;
  • animal welfare concerns;
  • food safety/quality assurance;
  • in-house research projects.
As with all successful businesses, those engaged in agribusiness must consider carefully their long and short term goals and objectives. They should also consider the role of the veterinarian and what their expectations are of the services offered. This should be openly discussed with the veterinarian so that there is a clear understanding of what the health management program should include, how it will be implemented and monitored and what it will cost. The body of information on animal health and production is substantial and considerable latitude exists in designing health and production programs. Financial resources, facilities and management level must be considered when implementing a production medicine program. Improved production efficiency is possible in feedlots of any size. Together with your veterinarian, a cost effective program can be designed that will maximize production within the goals of your operation.

Michael J. Jelinski, 2000. Alberta Feedlot Management Guide.
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For more information about the content of this document, contact Linda Hunt.
This information published to the web on October 25, 2007.
Last Reviewed/Revised on October 16, 2015.