The dairy industry is more and more driven by technology and big data. Modern dairy farms have changed too and farms are becoming more business focused and consolidated. This will inevitably change the role of the veterinarian in the future.
To understand how the dairy industry, the role of the veterinarian and ultrasound on the farm will change we interviewed David Black, of Paragon and XLVets.
David Black has a Diploma in Bovine Reproduction is an RCVS Recognised Specialist in Cattle Health and Production, and is currently studying for a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) at Nottingham University. He leads 2 Innovate UK funded projects investigating aspects of advanced breeding in cattle under UK conditions.
David is MD of Paragon, and MD (Farm) of XLVets, a company composed of 54 independent veterinary practices, all committed to the future of British agriculture and working together to deliver "Excellence in Practice". He represents the UK, is Treasurer of the World Association for Buiatrics, and is a non- executive director of the Veterinary Defence Society (VDS).
Moving forwards, experts are advising that there are going to be 3 key industries of the future, one is going to be genomics, which is obviously breeding that the vets are involved with. Another is going to be robotics or automation, and there is a lot that we can do there as well on farms. Not necessarily with robots, but automating a lot of processes. And the third one is going to be big data, and really understanding data and capturing all sorts of data sources. Once you have the data, you have to then interpret it, and that’s when the vets become very important because we can take all of these data sources, capture them in real time, cow side, pen side and add value to that.
Ultrasound is going to continue to be a really important tool that we use on the farm. It may not be vets that are using it into the long term – I think there will be more veterinary technicians using it – vet techs are going to become an integral part of our businesses and I suspect that we’ll be having vet lead teams that’ll be using veterinary technicians to do a lot of this type of work for us.
On the more advanced breeding side, we’re using veterinary ultrasound, for things like Ovum Pick Up (OPU) and IVF. And it’s a very important tool there for using the advanced breeding technologies that are going to become part of the farm vet’s job moving forwards. So we’re going to be much more involved in the breeding with genomics, with advanced breeding using embryos much more to transfer desirable traits, not only around the country, but worldwide.
The key challenges at the moment would be having as many contact points as we can with our farm, and being able to add value to their business, to be seen as part of the farm team, as opposed to just selling them products. I think we can improve the relationship on farm by being able to give back information to the farm herdsman or farm owner in a meaningful way., something they can use easily, often in a graphical format. If we can use technology to capture cow side data or animal pen side data and feed that back to them in a really meaningful format and be able to then benchmark within the farm or between farms, then that would be valuable.