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Veterinarian emphasizes need for documentation

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 10/22/2012 3:00 PM

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MANKATO, Minn. — A swine veterinarian from Pipestone Veterinary Clinic emphasized the importance of documentation during an animal care workshop.

Veterinarian Carissa Odland spoke during Minnesota Pork Board's "Animal Care is Our Priority" workshop on Sept. 18 in Mankato.

Odland said one of the first tasks she was given when new on the job was updating the clinic's animal welfare policy for the Pipestone System of sow farms. The task grew to include internal animal welfare assessment audits in late 2010 and into 2011 at four farms in the Pipestone System.

She and two others with different backgrounds visited the farms unannounced and answered 30 questions. The farms earned a composite score.

Soon after, they determined it would be too much work for internal employees to conduct the site assessments and a third party animal welfare auditor was hired. These audits began last fall and recently concluded, Odland said. All 30 farms in the system were visited with a 24-hour notice. The goal is to track improvement every year at each farm.

Four categories are reviewed: Animal observation, animal movement and transportation, documentation and facility maintenance.

They learned several things from the audits, Odland said. Issues that came up in the animal observation category include: What is being done about sow lameness, what is being done about animal wounds and also where did those wounds come from and third, what is the procedure for euthanasia. There weren't necessarily problems in these areas, Odland said, rather there needs to be clear, consistent expectations on what to do.

When it came to animal handling, Odland said the most important thing was for workers to stay calm. She suggested cleaning hallways before moving sows because sows will sniff everything. She said employees shouldn't kick the sort board because that could show up on video as workers kicking the sows.

In the facility area, Odland said workers need to be vigilant to see if there is protruding wire that can injure animals. Also, lights need to be changed to be sure it's not dark in sow barns. People who work in the barns everyday tend not to notice a burned out bulb, but someone who enters once will notice it's dark.

The documentation area is where the farms tended to lose the most points, Odland said, but documentation is becoming increasingly important. For example, whenever an injection is given, it needs to be documented with a signature and withholding information.

Remember, Odland said, just because your house is in order, it doesn't mean it won't show up on Youtube.