This piece was originally written for the American Association of Bovine Practitoners.
There has been much talk with the anticipated rollout of the National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Program, about the increased importance of the veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR). While the perception may be that the VCPR is receiving new attention from the FARM Program, the truth is that the critical relationship between a producer and their veterinarian has always been highlighted as one of the most important tenants of FARM.
Since the Program began in 2009, the VCPR has been the first question asked during the FARM Program Second-Party Evaluations, highlighting just how critical this relationship is. The Program looks for producers to have “evidence” of a valid VCPR and often seek out the name and information for their Veterinarian of Record. Our FARM Animal Care Manual states: “A robust and intimate relationship with the farm’s veterinarian is crucial to safeguarding animal care.”
In the next version of the FARM Program, Version 3.0 which is due out January 1, 2017, the requirement will be that producers and their Veterinarians of records sign a VCPR form annually, or more often as needed. It has been a slow build to this point, but all of our technical advisors who help write the Program felt it was crucial to have a VCPR relationship be one that is documented and formally affirmed. The FARM Program is creating sample form for producers to utilize to meet this new guideline, which will be available on the National Dairy FARM Program website.
Beyond a Veterinarian of Records’ signature on the official VCPR form, however, the FARM Program will continue to look to veterinarians to provide more comprehensive and exhaustive services to help producers in meeting the new guidelines of FARM, and in ensuring the best animal care is provided on their dairies overall.
Specifically, the FARM Program requires written protocols on a number of critical animal care topics including pain management, euthanasia, calf care and non-ambulatory cow movement/management. Writing out these protocols—and training to them—can be a task that is done in partnership with a farm’s veterinarian. Producers will need the valuable perspectives on animal health and welfare that veterinarians have to help shape, and make stronger, these critical farm management protocols.
Beyond having in place strong, written protocols, producers will also be looking for experts to help provide training, or insights into how to conduct proper training, to make sure such protocols are followed. This is also an excellent, and much needed, role that the veterinarian can help play. Providing trainings for producers and their employees on key animal health and wellbeing topics will help to ensure that all producers are up to speed on the most relevant best management practices while also helping them meet a new FARM Program requirement: having all employees with animal care responsibilities trained in basic stockmanship as well as their assigned area of responsibility.
To the FARM Program, the VCPR goes so much further than the piece of paper with the required signatures. A familiar, collaborative and cohesive relationship between a farm owner/manager that their veterinarian of record is key to ensuring that animals on dairies nationwide remain healthy and well-cared for. Moreover, a good VCPR will ensure that producers are able to meet the latest requirements of FARM with ease. It is our hope that veterinarians will look comprehensively at the needs to dairies—beyond the prescription pad—to really help ensure that farmers are assuring responsible management in all aspects of herd health and animal care.