Bovine Veterinarian recently conducted an online survey of beef and dairy veterinarians to assess the economic situation they and their clients are facing. One survey respondent anonymously said when clients want to reduce preventive costs such as vaccines and the like, he/she leaves them with the poem “The Ambulance Down In the Valley” written in 1895 by Joseph Malins.

A quick Google search will bring up the poem which describes a dangerous cliff where many people have fallen over the edge. The townsfolk came up with two choices — either build a fence at the edge of the cliff to prevent others from tumbling down the side, or buy an ambulance down in the valley to respond to the unlucky peson who had already fallen. One verse of the poem reads:

        Said one, to his peers, “It’s a marvel to me

        That you’d give so much greater attention

        To repairing results than to curing the cause;

        You had much better aim at prevention.

        For the mischief, of course, should be stopped at its source,

        Come, neighbors and friends, let us rally.

        It is far better sense to rely on a fence

        Than an ambulance down in the valley.”

Is this starting to sound familiar with the way that some of your clients think, especially when times are tight? In their efforts to reduce costs are they cutting out animal health programs that could turn around and bite them back in the future? What is your professional advice to clients when they would rather wait for an emergency that might never come vs. preventing it in the first place?

One veterinarian responding to the survey said: “I’ve tried to stress that reducing things such as biosecurity testing and reproductive checks could cost them much more down the road than the small savings now.” Another said, regarding the false economics that saving now (on certain inputs) will help save later, “I felt like I failed to document the value of the items they cut.”

This issue will kick off with a look at of the Bovine Veterinarian survey results. Three more subsequent articles will cover, more in-depth, how beef and dairy veterinarians are responding and strategizing to keep themselves and their clients ahead of the economic game.

And how did Malins wrap up his poem? With this last verse:

         The story looks queer as we’ve written it here,

         But things oft occur that are stranger;

         More humane, we assert, than to succor the hurt

         Is the plan of removing the danger,

         The best possible course is to safeguard the source;

         Attend to things rationally.

         Yes, build up the fence and let us dispense

         With the ambulance down in the valley.

Next issue: July/August 2009