Drs David Black and Lewis Griffiths of VetSalus recently attended the nineteenth conference of the Slovenian Buiatric Association, in Dobrna. Together they presented a workshop on the theme of “the Veterinary Profession and Food in 2025” as well as presenting individual papers. The workshop was based on the material presented last year in Japan and posed a number of important questions around the theme of how cattle vets engage with food production. A list of opportunities and threats was reviewed with the audience of over one hundred vets. Convincingly, the same issues once more emerged, cementing the central proposition of VetSalus: that vets are positioned firmly in the centre of a One Health approach to “the production of wholesome food from healthy animals.” And, as Heraclitus said around 500BC “the only thing constant is change.”

Dr Black’s paper covered some aspects of animal welfare and its relation to veterinary practice. There is no doubt that veterinarians are intimately connected with animal welfare: the oath sworn by every vet upon graduation declares that “my constant endeavour will be to ensure the health and welfare of the animals committed to my care.” But, as Dr Black emphasised, our understanding of animal welfare, based on sound science, is changing and the traditional focus on “the five freedoms” has expanded into a more holistic approach which focuses on the positive aspects of “lives worth living” rather than the removal of the negatives.

Dr Black also discussed the changing roles of the customer, who can also be involved in different roles as a consumer or a citizen. A citizen, for example, can have strong views on animal welfare and yet never be the customer who makes the purchase or a consumer at the end of the food chain. Animal welfare is central to all that VetSalus does: aspects of animal welfare are changing and veterinary attitudes also need updating.

Dr Griffiths presented a review of antimicrobial usage (AMU) which he based on the work of colleagues in both the United Kingdom and New Zealand. He presented some background data on the dairy industries of both countries and compared these to Slovenia statistics. The average herd size in Slovenia is much smaller but yields, at just over 7,000 litres, are almost identical with the UK and considerably ahead of the less intensive, pasture-based systems of New Zealand.

Dr Griffiths discussed the difficulties of comparing and benchmarking AMU, comparing apples with apples, suggesting that the wide range of metrics being employed indicate the “gold standard” has not yet evolved. The most commonly used metric, for inter farm and international comparison, mg/PCU (population corrected unit) must assume an average animal weight and this is difficult when different breeds and ages of livestock are involved. Its use is much stronger when complemented by additional information such as defined daily dose. The growth of resistance to antibiotics continues to occupy attention of the media and once more veterinarians are central to the resolution of the problem.

If you're interested in finding out more about the work of VetSalus, you can register your interest, apply to become a consultant or join the conversation on Linked In and Twitter.