Dr Ian Bradshaw, president of the Australian Cattle Veterinarians (ACV), said veterinarians and rural communities should be insulted at the suggestion that the decision by the Queensland government to back lay operators would not have a negative impact on veterinary businesses and the services they provide in rural communities.
“Income from pregnancy diagnosis lies at the core of cattle practice, not just in simple dollar terms, but the fact that it is routine, schedulable work that can be performed efficiently. This work helps support, and in many cases subsidise, many of the other veterinary services provided to cattle producers, which are often unpredictable, unprofitable and, not uncommonly, are emergencies occurring outside of business hours.” said Dr Bradshaw.
“Responding to veterinary emergencies, be that a calving, investigating a mortality event or a significant disease event doesn’t run to timetables or meet a budget.”
Dr Bradshaw says the reality is that rural veterinary practices can use projected income from pregnancy diagnosis to budget on, take to the bank manager and plan employment and business investment activities around in the rural communities they service and support. Pregnancy diagnosis services often form the basis of meaningful relationships with livestock producers. Where this doesn’t occur, you inevitably see a drop off in property visits for other reasons as well. Without this work, many veterinary practices will adapt by reducing veterinary staff or diverting resources and expertise to small animal and equine work.
“This means that there will be fewer vets with livestock expertise in rural communities, and it will become, over time, more expensive for producers to access veterinary services. The biggest losers from this decision, in the long run, will be Queensland producers,” said Dr Bradshaw.
The decision comes at a particularly bad time for rural communities in Queensland recovering from large losses of breeder cattle from the floods in NW Queensland, and in other areas gripped by drought. Dr Bradshaw explains that it is at this time that highly skilled veterinarians will be able to have the greatest impact to help manage remaining breeders and ensure reproductive efficiencies are maximised when herd rebuilding occurs.
“Pregnancy testing provides vital data on past reproductive performance, but the real value of veterinary advice is in recognising and preventing reproductive diseases and management issues impacting on future reproductive performance,” said Dr Bradshaw.
“Appropriately trained and experienced veterinarians are far and away the best qualified and equipped to deliver this insight and advice. Where does the Queensland Government propose that these vets will be found if they have disappeared from the bush due to a lack of practice viability?”