June Web Exclusive!
YouTube Series Showcases
Dairy Vet's True Calling
by Kara Lynn Dunn
It's not about milk chocolate for Charlie Bucket anymore. It's all about milk, cows, farm families and the dairy industry for Dr. Peter Ostrum, D.V.M. (Cornell University, 1984). Ostrum, who played Charlie in the original "Willie Wonka & The Chocolate Factory" (1971), is now part of a YouTube series that is educating the public about the life of a veterinarian.
Veterinarians on Call
is an unscripted, unstaged series of short vignettes on different livestock farms and, more recently, with companion animals in veterinary clinics across the U.S.
Clint Lewis, president of U.S. operations for Pfizer Animal Health, the series' sponsor, says, "Our goal is to help the public see the important role veterinarians play in ensuring the optimal health and wellness of all animals."
The veterinarians and the farmers-all volunteers-tell their own stories; the crew from Essex Television in Old Lyme, Conn., films as they work.
Essex Television cameraman Gordie Waterman focuses on Dr. Peter Ostrum
and producer John Courtmanche as they prepare to add narration to an
episode of Veterinarians on Call.
Ostrum specializes as a dairy vet and partner with Countryside Veterinary Clinic in Lewis County. The practice is one of New York State's oldest continuously operating large animal veterinary clinics. The county's cow-to-people ratio is 1:1.
When Pfizer decided it wanted to do a "follow the vets" series, Ostrum was a natural to star in two of the series' first episodes, which debuted in the fall of 2011.
"The educational aspect that this series represents really appeals to me. The videos are an opportunity to teach people who are more and more removed from agriculture, and a way to attract young people to a great lifestyle and occupation," Ostrum says.
In "To Operate or not operate," he visits Michael York's farm to evaluate an older cow off her feed. Ostrum takes a history, conducts a physical exam and diagnoses a displaced abomasum (a twisted stomach).
"What's fascinating about what we do is that our patients can't tell you where they hurt. You have to be in tune with the animal, how she looks and responds, and do a good job of examining her to discover the subtle factors at work," Ostrum says. "We also need to listen to the herd managers who work with the animals every day."
In the four-minute video, York illustrates the value of the vet to the farm, saying, "I trust totally in what Pete tells me to do."
In "Dr. Ostrum ultrasounds cows," filmed at Marks Farms in Lowville, N.Y., on-farm veterinarian Dr. Lindsay Peck says, "I consider Dr. Ostrum part of our family."
The segment filmed on the county's largest farm, with nearly 4,000 milking cows and 5,000 head of young stock, has received more than 17,000 hits.
Marks Farms, Ostrum notes, has a pregnancy catch rate of 26 percent, "off the charts" above the national average of 16 percent.
Ostrum talks about the personal satisfaction of treating individual animals. He enjoys helping farmers keep their herds healthy with proper attention to nutrition, housing and grouping strategies, all of which involve short and long-term planning.
Series producer John Courtmanche says the series "draws attention to hardworking family farmers who make the safety of our food supply their priority."
He says all the veterinarians featured in the series have had great camera presence, and "the participating farmers have been on board with helping us represent the good care provided to their livestock."
After the success of "Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory," the teenage Ostrum turned down a three-film contract and bought a horse. Having spent several months making the film, he found the movie business did not appeal to him. It was the work of the large animal veterinarian who cared for his horse that impressed him.
"That veterinarian was always in a happy mood, he worked outside and enjoyed what he did. That's what I decided I wanted to do," Ostrum says.
"My parents let me follow my dreams. I think it is important to offer our children a smorgasbord of experiences, as many things as they want to try, and to honor their choices," he says. "I like the satisfaction of treating individual animals and the long-term relationships you build with your clients as their veterinarian."
Dr. Ostrum has more videos that will be added to the series in the coming months.
Other videos in the series feature swine production veterinarian Dr. Angie Supple conducting a herd check and ventilation check at an Iowa piglet nursery in winter.
In a segment on artificial insemination (AI) at a Navasota, Texas, farm where the ranchers move their herd while on horseback, Dr. Don Goodman mentions a shortage of food animal AI practitioners.
Current episodes of Veterinarians on Call feature Ostrum's Countryside colleagues Dr. Stacy Kenyon and Dr. Deanna Fuller. Future episodes will feature equine surgeon Dr. Jose Garcia-Lopez operating on horses at Tufts University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.
Pfizer makes the videos available for anyone to use at will. Become a subscriber to receive notification of new postings on the series' home page at www.youtube.com/vetsoncall.
For those interested in a large-animal veterinary career, DVM Magazine in May 2011 reported that "DVM jobs will grow by almost 9 percent over the next seven years," noting shortages to be filled in rural large animal medicine. The article
also reported that job opportunities for veterinarians are expected to increase at a rate of 33 percent with vet technician jobs increasing by 36 percent through 2018.
Dr. Marc Lutschaunig, AVMA Governmental Relations Division, spoke to NewsRadio KTRH in Houston saying, "We're seeing a critical shortage of veterinarians, especially of those who work in food animal medicine, specifically in rural areas of the country."
An AVMA podcast with Dr. Tim Trayer, a food animal veterinarian in central Pennsylvania, looks at how the veterinary shortage affects the U.S. food supply. Dr. Trayer is focused 85% on dairy animals. His practice offers 24 pre-vet externships to encourage more students to be interested in large animal practice. Trayer is concerned that the shortage will negatively impact livestock producers ability to meet export market opportunities.
The American Veterinary Medicine Association posts job opportunities in its online career center and offers job seeker tips HERE
Kara Lynn Dunn is a freelance writer with a farm in northern New York state.
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