Querying Practitioners and Producers

Version 2.1 Updated 02/20/12


To begin identifying people doing what you want to do, who may serve as mentors and begin soliciting their advice on how to get from where you are (school) to where you want to go. The broader the range of advice you receive from ag animal practitioners and livestock producers in different geographic regions doing what you want to do the better prepared you will be for pursuing your career.

Potential Assignment:

After a field trip, write a paragraph or so and be prepared to discuss the most useful, interesting or surprising information that you received from practitioners. The purpose to share information gained on this field trip, particularly that from the small group time with individual practitioners, with classmates so that all benefit from your experience.

Some Suggested Questions:

(You are certainly encouraged to come up with your own!)


The following are questions that you might consider asking practitioners and producers.

Knowledge and Skills:

  • If you were hiring a new graduate, what areas would you like them to be strong in? What is the best way for a student to develop skills, knowledge and experience in these areas? Which are the priorities for a student? For a new graduate? Were you to hire an established practitioner, strengths would you look for and why? What weaknesses are deal killers?
  • What parts of veterinary school would you suggest that students should concentrate more on? Less on?
  • What non-school experiences should a student gain while in school?
  • What are some good skill benchmarks (e.g., have palpated XXX cows for pregnancy, done X c-sections) to shoot for?
  • What specific infectious diseases do you need to know a lot about? Production-related diseases? What parts of this knowledge did you find lacking in your veterinary school training? In the current training? Where are the best places to obtain it?
  • What % of the time do you spend practicing traditional individual animal medicine versus group procedures (e.g. palpating) vs. group-level problem solving (e.g. analyzing and making management recommendations)? How does this vary between herds? What is the proper balance and how do you change it in a herd where it is out of balance? How do you get paid for "consultation" or for time spent off the farm?
  • What is "herd production medicine"? What distinguishes it from "individual animal medicine"? What do you need to know to do it? How do you sell it to clients? What are the best ways for a student to get there?
  • What are the best sources of current professional information for use in practice (e.g. which websites, magazines, books, seminars, meetings, personal contacts)? Which of these should students get tapped into now and how? New graduates? How do you keep up on new products and which are best (e.g., vaccines)?
  • What non-veterinary skills have you found to be really important? Where can students or new graduates improve these?
  • What non-veterinary book, presentation, or experience changed the way you practice that you would recommend to a student or new graduate?
  • What major changes have occurred in the delivery of veterinary services during your career? What major things do you see happening in the future?
  • How does what you do now compare to what you expected to do when you graduated? What new skills and knowledge have you developed since graduation? How did you go about this development? Why did you decide to acquire those skills? What would you do differently if you were to do it over again? What skills are you gaining now or expect to gain in the future?

Asking about Clients:

  • What are the most important things for veterinarian to know about the business their clients are in? What is the best way to learn this? What are the most important parameters (e.g. prices) to track in the industry? How do you keep track of these? How is their business changing?
  • What are the characteristics of your clients that have remained in business versus those that went out in the tough times? Of those that you expect to remain in business for the next 10 years? Of those that you expect not to? What is your and the profession's role in keeping clients in business, if any?
  • What are the characteristics of your best clients? Your "less than best"? What are the proportions of the best and the headaches? How does your role and services differ between these two types?
  • How have the expectations of your "leading edge" clients changed since you graduated? Your "traditional" clients? Your "laggards"? How has the use of veterinary services by "leading edge" clients changed since you graduated? By "traditional" clients? How are these changing now? How do you expect these to change over the next 10 years? How have you kept up with these changes?
  • Have you "fired" clients with payment problems? That kept reasonably current? How did you do it and why?
  • How do you handle relationships with other professionals working for your clients, such as nutritionists, dairy management consultants and Monsanto "pigeon" consultants? What should a new graduate be prepared for?

Personal and Family:

  • How have your personal expectations changed since graduation? What are the highlights of your job? The lowlights?
  • How do you make time for your family? Who establishes the priorities for your time? How do you make time for important family events?
  • How do you keep from burning out? How do you keep your enthusiasm up?
  • What other activities fit well with being a veterinarian? What other activities are expected of a veterinarian in the community (e.g., school board)?
  • In what other activities do you have contact with clients?
  • Were you able to do it over again, would you choose this path?

Querying Producers:

    In general:

  • What do you look for in a veterinarian?
  • What should veterinarians know more about?
  • How do you decide to trust a veterinarian's advice?
  • What do veterinarians typically do well that they should keep doing? Not do so well that they should either improve or stop doing?
  • What service opportunities are veterinarians overlooking?
  • What services do other people provide that veterinarians should be able to provide?
  • What production problems do you have that veterinarians having the appropriate knowledge and skills could help you solve?
  • What new technology would you like to use that veterinarians having the appropriate knowledge and skills could help you implement?