Using your vet more cost-effectively

More British pig producers are now using specialist pig vets rather than “GP” practitioners. I’ve got nothing against the latter group at all – indeed in some models of the way a good pig specialist practice should be used, especially if distance is a real problem, the local GP vet can be part of the strategy.

Table 1 below illustrates the sort of difference using a specialist pig vet can make to a grow-out business. The figures were compiled from clients who changed from using vets who attended other large animals, mainly cattle and sheep, as well as their pigs, to a pig specialist veterinarian on a contract.

The figures revealed that even though the cost of the vet was three times higher, overall vet and med costs fell by 20%. Farm income increased by 6.5% and the gross margin increased by 11.8%

Even if vet and med costs were still as high as five euros per finisher, this was 8% of the farm’s total costs. So what about payback? Paying three times more – a figure that understandably puts people off – for a regular visit by the vet, preferably one specialising in pigs and using their skilled advice along with disease profiling, staff training and encouragement, should only increase the cost of the vet from the above table by two euros per pig.

Add to this the reduced medication costs of 0.75 euros, the total invested in the more modern, contracted approach comes to only about 4% of the total cost of production per pig, dependent on the farm, of course. This is much less – surprise, surprise – than the traditional call-out-when-needed policy, which while disappearing (I hope) in Britain, is still common overseas.

Regular contracted visits are, therefore, very likely to pay. It certainly did at Dean’s Grove Farm, where our pig vet, Terry Heard, introduced us the concept. We were initially hesitant all those years ago, but it didn’t take long to be convinced about its worth.

Table 1: Comparative costs and benefits from using vets in the traditional way and as a regular farm adviser on contract

Cost/pig sold (euro) Med costs/pig sold (euros) MTF 26-105kg
Traditional 0.98 4.10 231kg
Modern 3.00 0.75 240kg

NB: Figures averaged from three farms with a stable disease position during the changeover period. MTF is meat per tonne of feed used.

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About The Author

John Gadd, who has spent 60 years' involvement in pig production, has had more than 2,800 articles about pigs published and has written three best-selling pig textbooks. With hands-on experience that includes managing a grow-out herd at 1,800ft in Banffshire, Scotland, and 20 years in the allied industries with Boots' Farm Department, RHM Agriculture and Taymix, he set up his own international pig management consultancy in the mid 1980s and has now visited more than 3,000 pig units in 33 countries as a pig management adviser. (Photo courtesy Bournemouth Daily Echo)