Erik Laumann graduated from vet school 14 years ago and went to work at the Fremont County Veterinary Clinic. The Farragut, Iowa, native is still there.
“I really didn’t have a reason to leave,” Laumann said. “This is a great place for a large animal veterinarian, and I like our clients and the people I work with. It’s turned out very well.”
Laumann received his bachelor’s degree in ag business at Northwest Missouri State University, then graduated from Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 2006.
“I wanted to go back and farm, but at the time it was not financially feasible,” he said. “I think I knew I always wanted to be a veterinarian, however.”
Over the past 14 years, Laumann’s role has changed in several ways. He said his southwestern Iowa clinic works with more cattle than it has in the past, using advances in technology to better serve their clients.
“We have a lot more things we can use for diagnostic testing,” Laumann said. “I would say we use ultrasound now on 90% of the cows we preg check. Chute-side diagnostic work for respiratory disease has advanced as well.”
He said veterinarians work more with traceability, especially with large hog operations.
Added regulations have also changed the role of the veterinarian. Laumann said there is more paperwork with the Veterinary Feed Directive and other changes when it comes to antibiotic usage.
Like the rest of agriculture, the role of the field veterinarian continues to evolve, said Grant Dewell, Extension beef veterinarian with Iowa State University. He said the philosophy behind working with large animals has changed.
“I think from a clinical perspective, it used to be mostly individual animal care, and then it seemed to be more data-driven,” Dewell said. “Now, with a great focus on animal welfare and consumer perspective, we have kind of gone back to more of the individual animal care.”
He calls veterinarians the “gatekeepers of antibiotic usage,” a role that brings with it more oversight and paperwork. Veterinarians are also more active when it comes to educating their clients.
“As we have grown from a local to global industry, there is more of a need for us to provide direction in biosecurity and other risk management practices,” Dewell said. “We have to make sure we stay educated and updated on new technology and other things that might improve our practice.”
Laumann said the veterinarian can often assume the role of counselor with their clients.
“I tell them that half of my job is to just keep them sane,” he said. “It can get pretty stressful at times for our clients, and we do what we can to help.”
While some producers steer clear of new technology, many others embrace it.
“My clientele is mostly around my age, and I’m 40,” he said. “Technology and new information is not something they balk at. They take new technology and run with it. I think the folks that are the most successful are those who feel the need to keep learning.”
Jeff DeYoung is livestock editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.