April 1, 2020

Video Consultations and Farm Practice

Holly Anne Hills BVM BVS BVMedSci MRCVS

April 1, 2020

So, is video consulting any use to farm animal vets? The simple answer is yes, absolutely. Unfortunately, while the world stands still in this pandemic the agricultural show must go on, and farm vets are considered key workers to maintain the food chain. It is still essential to adopt social distancing measures where possible; maintaining this on farm isn’t always so easy, slowing things down, adding stress to a job that carries this burden even under normal circumstances.

Reducing unnecessary contact with farmers is essential; with an already reduced workforce, we need to keep our farmers well to keep food on our plates. And that’s where remote video consultations come in. Reduced driving time and added value for vets and farmers places remote consulting in a really exciting place both now and in the future. The VetHelpDirect platform runs on WiFi or data, so you don’t need to worry about those remote farms where the phone never works – ask the farmer to take a video/photographs then send them over to you for discussion during the consultation.

Just some of the many ways we can integrate this technology into our practice:

  • Farm assurance and herd health planning
  • Individual ‘sick cow’ cases that farmers can manage with direction
  • Vet input into antibiotic usage
  • Assessment of lameness
  • Nutrition and worming advice calls
  • Post-surgery checks

Many essential herd health and farm assurance reviews still need completing during lockdown. The need for paperwork being signed is easily overcome by scanning it onto the computer. You can ask the farmer to email over their herd/flock data prior to the face to face discussion (and even that all important cuppa) about how things have been on the farm and what to plan for the coming year. The same goes for TB advisory meetings – if you must see the farm, do so alone, and follow up with a video consultation and discussion with the farmer.

So, remember that caesarean you did in the middle of the night ten days ago? With a video of the surgical wound, you can check it over and advise the farmer to remove the stitches or take any other necessary actions. We all know that farmers often remove stitches without telling us, so encouraging this communication helps us stay involved with cases from start to finish, ensuring the correct interventions are made.

What about a sick cow? She’s not down, but she didn’t eat her cake this morning and something just isn’t quite right. And the farmer’s wife has been coughing for the last two days… If the condition of the animal doesn’t require urgent care, a chat over video and seeing the animal through the camera can give you a good overview of what’s going on. Of course, it’s no replacement for a full clinical exam, but in light of the circumstances, it’s the next best thing. If the farmer has a well-stocked medicine cupboard, you can even get them to show you inside (who knows what you might discover!) and make your treatment choices accordingly.

With chargeable remote consulting you no longer need to spend 30 minutes on the phone discussing worming strategies without being paid for your time. The VetHelpDirect platform takes payment upfront, formalises the discussion and ensures that farmers see their true value. The same goes for those calls where farmers ask for a bottle of ‘something for x, y or z’ – encouraging a video consultation could help vets gain more control over responsible medicines use on farm.

Small holders, what about them? Although many of these pet farm species are technically classified as food producing animals, it is not essential work to provide anything but emergency care to these patients just as in regular pets like cats and dogs. We can use video consultation platforms with these clients to support and advise them, triaging cases to ensure we only set foot on the premises if absolutely necessary. In the future even, remote consulting could help small holders who need that extra bit of help with husbandry and medicine administration.