Status of veterinary care for organic livestock producers in Iowa and suggestions for improvement
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From 1997 to 2008, organic food sales in the United States have seen average yearly increases of over 18%. Producers are responding to this consumer demand, but one challenge is the need for alternative veterinary care options for livestock production, as antibiotics and a variety of other conventional treatments are excluded by National Organic Program (NOP) standards. This study assessed access to and education about veterinary care for organic livestock systems, with the goal of identifying areas for potential improvements. Two surveys were conducted to address the issue. The first was mailed to all USDA certified organic livestock producers in Iowa, and the second was mailed to all production animal veterinarians in the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association (IVMA). The producers surveyed handled most routine herd health needs without veterinary consultation and indicated that herd health was not a significant challenge. The biggest reason producers cited for their self-reliance was lack of herd health problems. However, the veterinarians surveyed indicated widespread health challenges within organic systems, and stressed the importance of veterinary involvement. While most veterinarians expressed some reservations about organic production, the majority indicated interest in it and recognized consumer demand for organic products. Most believed information related to organic systems is difficult to access and favored increased educational options, such as continuing education credits and/or increased information within veterinary medicine programs. The veterinarian survey showed a high degree of misunderstanding regarding the definition and rules of organic production, existence of national organic standards, and where to access authoritative information. This indicates that available information regarding organic standards does not always make its way into the hands of veterinary professionals.