79 (3) 218-226

The functioning of the veterinarian in the Belgian pig sector: a questionnaire survey of pig practitioners

The aim of the study was to gather information on the functioning of the pig practitioners in the current pigsector in Belgium by means of a questionnaire. It consisted of 76 questions dealing with the studies of veterinarymedicine, the situation of the practitioners and the veterinary herd health guidance. Forty-three practitionerscompleted the questionnaire. On average, the respondents have 17 years of professional experience. Most of theveterinarians prefer that the current education system with the different main subjects in the last year of veterinarymedicine studies is maintained, a minority prefers to have more (19%) or less (36%) differentiation during the study.Of all veterinarians who obtained their DVM degrees after 1997, 19 out of 20 have followed one or more coursesrelated to pig medicine. Fifty-eight percent work as an independent practitioner and 42% as a practitioner associatedwith a feeding company. Forty-four percent work in a one-man practice and 56% in a group practice. Almost allveterinarians have a full-time job and work on average 54 hours per week. The respondents report to be the statutoryherd veterinarian of 43 pig herds on average. A solid professional knowledge combined with good social skills tocommunicate with the farmer are considered to be the most important factors for a successful herd health guidance.An important part of the income (43%) is obtained by selling veterinary drugs. Eighty-five percent of the practitionersreport that pig producers are not willing to pay for professional advice. The health status of the pigs in the herds isbest monitored by performing necropsies and by a diagnostic work-up of a representative number of pigs of the herd,rather than by investigating pigs in the slaughterhouse. The majority of veterinarians think that several aspects relatedto the practice situation as well as the herd health guidance can be improved (administration, payment, importanceof quality assurance labels for practitioners, medication, prescription of drugs). Eighty six percent of the respondentsprefer to continue with their current jobs. This is an indication of professional satisfaction and illustrates that thecurrent practitioners are positive and hopeful about their future in the pig production.

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