SHEEP producers in Victoria have access to a free mobile phone app that makes veterinarians more accessible, overcomes free advice issues and has obvious exotic disease notification and animal welfare benefits.
The Phone A Vet smart phone app was developed by Dr Tristan Jubb of Bendigo Sheep Vets and his best mate, information technologist Githal Pathirana.
The Phone A Vet was developed just 12 months after Tristan explained to Githal the need for busy sheep producers to conveniently and affordably get good veterinary advice when a visit to or from the vet wasn’t warranted.
“Githal’s response was – Why don’t we make an app for that?”
Two months after its launch, the app now has 15 participating veterinarians and has been used by producers throughout central and western Victoria.
Dr Jubb was primarily a cattle vet, but now 90 percent of his work is working with sheep. He said free advice to producers had been becoming a “bit much” in his practice.
“I was spending a lot of time giving free advice and at all hours, and many sheep producers wanted to pay, but there was no means of doing that.”
Dr Jubb said participating vets are relishing the idea of getting paid for advice they had previously given for free.
Veterinary involvement on sheep farms is traditionally minimal, with farmers time-poor and “cautious about their spend,” but sheep producers are enjoying the app’s convenience and affordability, he said.
“All of a sudden they have a means of talking to a vet who knows what they are talking about.
“Sometimes they just want to speak to a vet to get some advice, they don’t want to get a vet out and don’t want to take sheep into a vet,” he said.
“So many times, they just don’t get around to getting good veterinary advice and then things can go quite badly if there a delays in treatment or intervention.”
App can help maintenance of client status for farmers
Dr Jubb said the app is a way of maintaining bona fide client status.
“If you are visited at least one once, but if there is evidence that a vet has interacted with a farmer and that you have knowledge of a farmers’ animals and they are ‘under your care’.”
But he said the tele-veterinary-advice service that Phone A Vet offers has limitations when it comes to making a diagnosis of sick or injured animal because the veterinarian is giving advice without being present with the animal.
“Animal owners must be aware of this.”
The vet advice given via the app is not for a full diagnosis, but to help farmers know what steps to take, Dr Jubb said.
The cost of an app session is $24.95 inclusive of GST and includes an up to 15-minute video call. The app also has a switch camera function, so a farmer with mobile reception can show the vet the animal, facilities, paddocks and suspect weeds, sending photos and a video to enable better advice to be given.
“It’s a structured way of collecting information that is recorded and stored.
“The vet provides closing remarks at the end, the farmer is emailed an invoice and vet gets a copy of it.”
Dr Jubb said animal owners can search for a veterinarian by name, location and animal species.
“If the veterinarian an animal owner wants to speak to is offline, a notification can be sent to the animal owner when the veterinarian comes online.
Dr Jubb said Phone A Vet veterinarians have expertise in farm and companion animals and any Australian-registered vet can join.
“It is for all animals, but it was developed for my business purposes for farmers.”
App could help improve animal welfare and exotic disease detection
He said market research showed farmers get advice from a range of people – rural merchandisers, sales people and product reps – who might have limited animal health knowledge and objectivity.
“This way sheep producers can contact a veterinarian.”
Dr Jubb said the app could help improve overall animal welfare on farms and also help with early diagnosis and notification of an exotic disease outbreak.
“Important outcomes for the livestock industries may be earlier detection of emergency diseases such as anthrax, African swine fever and foot and mouth disease, and earlier interventions for sick and injured farm animals.”
The app is downloadable for free from Google Play or the App Store. For more information click here.