Modern American livestock farmers face two emerging challenges: an increasing shortage of large-animal veterinarians, and dimming public understanding of what happens with food before it hits the fork. A new reality documentary series called Veterinarians on Call seeks to bridge these gaps by offering online viewers a candid look into the work of real livestock veterinarians, raising awareness of the care that goes into responsible livestock farming in the US.
As part of its efforts to support the veterinary and animal health industry, pharmaceutical company Pfizer funded the show’s production. Currently seven short ‘webisodes’ are available through the show’s Youtube Channel. Each episode follows one of several livestock veterinarians selected from various states and specialties who have volunteered to be filmed in their day-to-day work behind the scenes caring for food-production animals.
Cattle veterinarian Dr. Peter Ostrum ’84 features prominently in the series. Ostrum had an early start onstage playing the role of Charlie in the classic film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971). Preferring farms to fame, he left acting to earn his DVM from Cornell and now works at a mixed animal practice in upstate New York, which he co-owns with three other Cornell alumni.
“I got a call from a friend and fellow alum, Dr. Roger Saltman ’81, who works at Pfizer, and asked me if I’d be willing to participate,” said Ostrum. “The crew shadowed me throughout my normal workday and during emergency calls on dairy farms. When we discussed cases on camera I tried to explain what I’m doing for someone who’d never been on a farm.”
The show highlights how veterinary care plays into the key concepts of animal welfare and food safety, and reveals aspects of the job Ostrum says people wouldn’t normally think of.
“This job is not just treating sick cows. A lot of it is education; we spend a lot of time with people, training the farm workers who work with these animals every day and are usually the ones making decisions about treatment,” said Ostrum.