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Profiting from health, rather than disease
  1. R. J. Sibley
  1. West Ridge Veterinary Practice, Witheridge, Devon EX168 8AS e-mail:

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Dick Sibley argues that farm animal practice needs new business models if preventive medicine is really to take off

AS practising veterinary surgeons, we intuitively do things to animals. Ask any farm vet: the thrill of calving a cow or lambing a ewe is never lost. Technical tasks are rewarding: they have a beginning, a middle and an end. You can leave the job with a result, good or bad. However, the real benefits of animal health can be best achieved by a strategic approach to health, rather than responding to disease.

Our current models of veterinary practice do not fit well with this paradigm shift. While many progressive farm animal practices make valiant attempts at managing health and disease on their clients' farms, in reality most cattle health programmes centre on fertility, mastitis and lameness, with the vets getting involved when things go wrong. Indeed, our monitoring systems rely on setting targets and intervening when the targets are not met. As vets, nothing inspires us more than solving a problem, managing a disease outbreak or correcting …

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