Aims: To assess the attitude of dairy farm consultants to the role of veterinarians on dairy farms and whether they viewed veterinary advice as impartial, free from commercial bias and central to farm productivity and profitability.
Methods: A telephone survey was commissioned in September 2014 of 36 full-time farm consultants in the Canterbury and Otago region of New Zealand using a pre-prepared questionnaire to explore their attitudes towards the veterinary profession. Of those approached, 25 completed the survey.
Results: The consultants surveyed agreed or strongly agreed (21/23) that they were the custodians of animal health expenditure on farms, which was seen as an expense to be controlled (19/25 agreed or strongly agreed). This view was held more strongly (9/9 agreed or strongly agreed) by consultants with >5 years' professional experience, compared to 10/16 consultants with ≤5 years' experience. Most consultants (24/25) disagreed that they did not respect veterinary advice, but agreed (24/25) that veterinarians almost always had a vested interest in the advice that they gave. The role of veterinarians was seen by respondents to be mainly treatment of sick animals (22/25) and provision of animal health products (24/25), but not in maximising farm profitability (selected by 8/25 respondents). Consultants viewed their own roles as providing advice on the influence of animal health on farm profitability (21/25), nutrition (22/25) and reproduction (20/25). Most respondents (21/25) stated that reducing disease and animal health issues was important, but they (21/25) also identified a reduction in farm animal health expenditure as a measure of success. Only 7/25 consultants felt that they should work in partnership with veterinarians.
Conclusions: This was a small scale study from one region of New Zealand but it indicates that consultants are ambivalent about the role and value of working more closely with veterinarians, and about the benefit that veterinary intervention may bring to a farm's profitability.
Clinical relevance: More successful veterinary involvement on dairy farms will follow from a better understanding of how other rural professionals are involved in the farm's management and in meeting the individual farmer's goals and motivations.
Keywords: Farm consultant; animal health expenditure; profitability; relationship; veterinary intervention.