Are Large Animal Practitioners Ready for Corporate Practice?

Clinics and Trends

Image from College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida

A large share of small animal practices turned corporate have several things in common. Corporate medicine allows veterinarians to escape the management aspects of a large practice and the majority of veterinarians want a profitable exit from a profitable practice. 

The growth of corporate practices indicates growing interest from veterinarians; approximately five to eight percent of small animal practices are now at the corporate level of ownership. 

But is corporate practice fitting for large animal practitioners? Fifty key practitioners, interviewed at a recent veterinary meeting, came from major animal producing states and were selected at random. The following comments were made: (li) “Our clientele are scattered over too large an area for corporate ownership of a practice to function on a profitable basis.” (li) “Our gross income and net incomes are small compared to a practice with companion pets.” (li) “Already, swine producers have been greatly replaced with industry owning large production units, and they employ their swine specialists. There is no money in our practice areas where this has occurred.” (li) “It would be feasible for the merging of two to four practices under the corporate practice concept; but we aren’t ready for it.” (li) “We’re too independent. We want to run our own business.” (li) “If one practice is approached by corporate interests, several more are may follow.” 

Food animal practitioners follow the development of large production units in their practice areas. These production units employ their own veterinarians; many are concerned that there aren’t enough profitable veterinary services in their practice areas. 

Take for instance the hobby farmer, who can’t derive a satisfactory income and works in town to supplement his income. The owner, in general, doesn’t make a good client, which appears to be the situation throughout the major livestock producing states, but these clients must be served. 

In Midwestern states, several veterinary clinics operate in towns of 2,500 to 5,000 inhabitants, servicing the needs of local clients, but they have largely missed the large production units entering their practice areas. These units are serviced by resident veterinarians or by specialized consultants. 

The consolidation of these practices can create veterinary specialization and specialized paraprofessional employment. Furthermore, these practices can consolidate, with ownership by veterinarians on a per-share basis, providing the same type of benefits offered by some corporate ownership—providing that the right type of practice management prevails. 

If large animal practices would consolidate or operate as one unit, there are several possible advantages for the veterinarians involved. First, empowered management could prevail even if this management was secured from other than veterinarians within the clinic. Second, specialists could prevail in working with different species; these specialists could readily adopt all recent technologies, such as fertilized egg transplantation, diagnostic procedures, production medicine programs for clients and more time for continuing education. It will take a number of veterinarians that will work well together seeking goals otherwise not attainable. Increased revenue is one of the most desirable goals. 

It is difficult to find desirable staff if the clinic does not have the goals, facilities and expertise; no recent graduate wants to enter into a practice where such necessities are not available. This is the common complaint of large animal veterinarians seeking new staff members. Large animal medicine is not going to be attractive until innovations within the present practices are available. One recent graduate reported that the practitioners who haven’t improved their practices could not possibly expect recent graduates to accept the remuneration, income and facilities that existed 30 to 50 years ago. Maybe corporate practice is the answer. Large animal medicine needs a boost. 

In many areas, particularly in highly populated dairy areas, group practices prevail. Is corporate practice needed in these areas? Is it forthcoming? If there is an opportunity for the investors, they will appear. It seems that consolidation is needed in many areas. 

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