History of the ALVMA Conference for Food Animal Veterinarians
Dr. James G. Floyd, Extension Veterinarian, established the Food Animal Conference in 1992 to provide continuing education focused on timely topics for veterinarians engaged in food animal practice. As Chair, Large Animal Affairs Committee for the ALVMA and Chair, State Diagnostic Lab Committee for the ALVMA, his vision was to bring together practitioners, industry, regulatory and academic veterinarians in an environment that was conducive to free exchange of ideas and issues important to food animal veterinary medicine. The meeting was envisioned as a forum for presentations by national and international authorities on food animal medicine and a venue for discussion of common issues, problems and potential solutions. Previously, the Alabama Academy of Veterinary Practice held a two-day annual meeting for large animal practitioners at the Auburn College of Veterinary Medicine with one day dedicated to equine practice and the other for all other farm animal species. The Food Animal Conference was initiated to supplement that meeting with one more in-depth focus on the beef, dairy, swine, and poultry industries’ emerging common issues, including foreign animal diseases, consolidation of production facilities, environmental concerns, quality assurance and food safety to name just a few. Under Dr. Floyd’s direction the program has been a resounding success from the beginning.
Following Dr. Floyd’s departure to become Department Head at North Carolina State University Dr. Dwight Wolfe became Chair of the ALVMA Food Animal Affairs Committee and Program Chairman for the conference. He continued in this role until Dr. Soren Rodning became Extension Veterinarian in 2006 who then became Chair of the ALVMA Food Animal Affairs Committee and Program Chairman. Dr. Rodning served in that role until he was deployed in Afghanistan during which time Dr. Dwight Wolfe resumed Program Chair for one year followed by Dr. Lew Strickland, as interim Extension Veterinarian until Dr. Rodning completed his tour of duty and resumed serving as Program Chair. The conference has been improved by Dr. Rodning since his assumption of that duty, and the alliance with the ALVMA has greatly enhanced its administration and quality.
The Alabama 4-H Center in Columbiana was chosen as the meeting site because of its central location combined with excellent housing, dining and the relaxed rural setting. Because of the comprehensive facilities at the 4-H Center, attendees could remain there during the entire meeting, allowing extra time to interact and socialize with veterinary colleagues, industry reps and speakers. At the time the conference began, the 4-H Center issued no keys to the hotel rooms and even today the cell phone coverage is spotty, minimizing distractions while enhancing the opportunities to concentrate on the meeting itself.
Allied industries including animal health and equipment companies quickly signed on as sponsors which lowered the meeting’s cost. A meeting theme was usually established to allow for a common thread between presenters without restricting their ability to cover what they felt was needed in their realms of expertise. Although dairy, small ruminant, swine and poultry subjects were included, most of the subjects centered on beef cattle topics, thus reflecting the food animal focus of most Alabama practitioners. Practitioners from adjoining states began to attend as the conference established a reputation for good speakers and collegial interactions. Initially the conference was co-sponsored by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, Auburn University College of Agriculture, and the Alabama Veterinary Medical Association. Over time the ALVMA has become sole sponsor of the conference which is supported by loyal industry partners.
The meeting format has always been with a kickoff on Friday afternoon and concluding Sunday morning sessions followed by lunch, with all meals in between included in the registration. The unique venue allows ample time for networking and renewing acquaintances. Additionally, speakers include private practitioners from other regions of the country, veterinarians from industry, the Alabama Diagnostic Laboratory System, State and Federal Regulatory Veterinarians, as well as academic veterinarians and animal scientists. The conference has grown to approximately 20 hours of CE credit offered for full attendance. In addition to food animal sessions, topics also include practice business management, legal issues and investment strategies.
From the beginning of the conference, the Saturday night Happy Hour has included a “Downie Award” for the best story from rural practice. Over the years this has produced enough hilarious stories that our only regret should be that they were not recorded and syndicated. Jerry Clower would have nothing on some of them, including such famous stories as the Brahma heifer that rode to her death in the cab of a pickup truck, the sow underneath the porch, and the cow that delivered her own calf with a vet’s calf jack. You had to be there. The origin of Downie Award was from the prize that was originally given: an “official” framed certificated inducting the winner into the “American College of Downer Cows.” Somewhat more valuable prizes included bull penis walking canes, and currently unique welded bovine statues custom made by Dr. Arvle Marshall. The Conference for Food Animal Veterinarians, as it is known today, continues to be a unique opportunity to enjoy one of the best food animal meetings in the Southeast U.S.
Many thanks to Drs. Jim Floyd and Dwight Wolfe for their contributions to this story.
Check the Calendar of Events for additional information on this annual conference.