Perfect storm of changes drives expanded role for poultry veterinarians

Poultry Health Services is a top example of innovative veterinary companies leading the charge.
Canadian Poultry magazine
August 28, 2018
By Canadian Poultry magazine
As the poultry industry across Canada enters a period of unprecedented modern-era change with the convergence of several big issues and targets for improvement, a major advantage is emerging in the form of innovation-focused veterinary companies that are embracing a progressive mindset and expanded role to help producers and their industry meet the challenge.

“We are at the forefront of a new era of poultry production – no question,” says Dr. Tom Inglis, a leading poultry veterinarian who is also founder and managing partner at Poultry Health Services. “The industry is rapidly evolving. As veterinarians, we too must embrace new models and new ways of thinking to help the industry adapt and succeed.”

The perfect storm of key issues and rising expectations coming together includes the need to address antimicrobial stewardship, animal care and sustainability excellence, along with overall profitability, while meeting the increasingly specific requirements of customers and consumers spanning a broadened range of diversified marketing opportunities.

Aligning health strategies to broader game plan
The role of veterinarians in diagnosing and treating health issues has never been more important. However, they must increasingly do so with an eye to these additional requirements, pressures, demands and opportunities. They must align poultry health strategies within a broader game plan for success tailored to the specific needs and objectives of each operation.

The emphasis of veterinary approaches is expanding more strongly from simply ‘diagnose and treat’ to prevention and surveillance. Among the most progressive veterinary services providers, it is also shifting to a more central strategic advisory role, invested in the overall management and success of poultry production.

Integrated approach pays dividends
“Rather than simply a strict health focus, there is a rising need for veterinarians to adopt bigger picture viewpoints and to contribute to broader strategies involving collaboration and coordination with additional areas of expertise,” Inglis says. “Health approaches and considerations ultimately touch all aspects a poultry operation. We can have a stronger central role in overall strategy and helping producers reconcile and align various pressures and needs. This is an approach we have embraced with our own practice. We see it as the way of the future.”

Poultry Health Services is a leading example of a veterinary company embracing the concept of integration, including prominently through its participation in Poultry Partners. Poultry Partners is an in innovative model started by Poultry Health Services, which provides veterinary and health management services, in collaboration with Nutrition Partners, which offers nutrition options and formulations. The combined initiative offers an integrated approach to animal health, nutrition, on-farm management and business development services.

Key examples: Three top areas of change
Three major areas of change stand out for poultry operations for the remainder of 2018 and into 2019, says Inglis. All are areas where veterinarians have a critical role to play in contributing to integrated approaches – and where a progressive model such as Poultry Partners has unique advantages.

Antimicrobial stewardship. The first is antimicrobial stewardship. New restrictions and tighter oversight are becoming the new normal not only in poultry production but across animal agriculture. In the U.S., the new Veterinary Feed Directive has been implemented over the past 24 months, combining with retailer demands to drive a dramatic shift away from reliance on antimicrobials as a production tool.

Canada is advancing in a parallel direction and has set the end of December 2018 as the deadline for moving all use of antimicrobials in agriculture to prescription only.

Animal care. The second is animal care. Customers and consumers continue to demand enhanced transparency and verification demonstrating high standards of care and welfare. This is one factor among several that have fueled the development of updated codes of practice across the industry. Associations such as Chicken Farmers of Canada have built upon this further by introducing branded, auditable raised with care programs.

Sustainability excellence. A third key area – one with broad components – is sustainability excellence. In addition to antimicrobial stewardship and animal care, this ever-broadening category also encompasses varied components such as housing, biosecurity, environment, quality, food safety, carbon footprint and water & waste management.

Boosting overall profitability
Progress in all three areas ties into overall profitability, with health strategies being a central connection point, observes Inglis. For example, Poultry Partners has found that many farms have 10 to 30 per cent untapped profit potential tied to the combination of health, nutrition and management approaches.

For veterinary companies serving poultry operations, an important focus in helping to address these challenges is to serve as a valued knowledge source keeping up to date with the latest expectations, trends and opportunities. In addition, the key to success today is increasingly to apply more holistic integrated thinking that considers how various aspects of production inter-relate and influence one another.

Dynamic approaches to address today's needs
“Production systems are very dynamic,” says Inglis. “The strategies we apply must be dynamic as well. We are more effective when we look not just at one or two needs or desired outcomes but rather the system as a whole and the needs and opportunities as a whole. All aspects of production – whether it be health, nutrition, management, environment or another component – all influence one another. Strategies that take a broader view and encompass more of these considerations have a better opportunity to optimize results. The ability to do this well is becoming a defining characteristic of the most successful operations.”

Over the past year Poultry Health Services, based in Airdrie, Alberta, has expanded its office base into Ontario via partnership with South West Ontario Veterinary Services located in Stratford.

Poultry Health Services and Poultry Partners clients are supported from the new location. “With Poultry Partners, we have a collaborative effort between veterinarians, nutritionists and industry experts, designed to support the success of poultry operations through custom programs and services tailored to individual needs” says Inglis. “It’s about teamwork . . . but more important it’s about results.”

Further insights from Inglis are available in a “Q&A: Inside the new world of poultry health” on the Poultry Partners website, www.poultrypartners.ca.

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