Data's role in disease management

Welcome everyone. This is AGcelerate. My name is Nikolai Shchetikhin and I have Jim Johnston with me. And today we have a guest, we have Barry Fleming with us. How are you doing gentleman?   

[00:00:19] Good Nik.  

[00:00:22] Good Nik. Great to see you and great to be with you. 

[00:00:25] Yeah, it’s really good too. Good to have you here with us.   

[00:00:29] Yeah, it’s good to see you again, Barry. I mean, you, you, you kind of in the middle east, starting working from a base in Dubai at the moment, maybe. explain a little bit about what you’re doing right now.  

[00:00:41] Yeah, yeah, absolutely, gentlemen. I mean, obviously, you know that we go quite a little way back in the past life. And I’m a veterinarian by trade. I am qualified last century. And obviously, now I’m in this century, sort of a career spanning the two centuries. And focusing on avian has been my forte. And the recent times, I kind of fell into the avian side of the business in 2001 when I was working with Elanco, prior to that, I was a production veterinarian with ruminant. So it’s, it’s always been production animal medicine that I’ve been passionate about. And when I joined the Elanco, animal health in 2001, as a ruminant vet, they gave me the opportunity to move into avian, which I thought was a temporary thing. And here I am in 2021. Still talking about chickens it is such a dynamic industry, I have absolutely thoroughly enjoyed it. And I wouldn’t change it for the world, because it’s it’s incredibly large, but incredibly small. And you can make massive games with little changes. So your impact can potentially be absolutely fantastic. And you’re right, I’m stuck out in the Middle East. or stuck out is not the right word for it, but I’m enjoying my time in the Middle East. And I’ve been working and living in the Middle East since 2014. I initially came out here to work for a large broiler integrator and never work for a pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim. I‘m heading up their Avian department.  

[00:02:14] All right, brilliant. So we have a real veterinarian with lots of experience today. So it will talk about the importance of data and how it relates to the vet jobs. But before we start, Barry, I always ask the same question for every guest we have how you started with the poultry? Did you anticipate to work with poultry ever? And what keeps you in the industry?  

[00:02:43] As a very good question, Nik and I never anticipated in my wildest dreams. In fact, there’s a small story behind that when we were having our poultry lectures, when I was at veterinary school, I was a very vocal person said who would be interested in this industry, and I will never ever be involved with it. And it just taught me never to say never, as it has been demonstrated, because here I am in 2021 and have actually went up through the various levels and challenges within the poultry industry. And I’ve been working at a global level now for a while. And as I said earlier, it’s it’s an absolute fantastic and dynamic industry and great people that you get in touch with and have great heated discussions a lot of the time, but it’s it’s we’re all driving towards the same goal. Yeah, and good discussions is what we need here, right? Because this is this is what generates this move, and we need to share experience more.   

[00:04:09] I mean, I mean, there’s a whole host of data that we always want to be interested in. In the avian side of the business, I mean, from from key performance indicators, with broiler weights in the broiler world average daily gain, and mortality figures, livability figures, egg production, body weights for rear for breeders, and layers, a whole host of things there that we can capture. And data is absolutely critical to get to the next level of performance. And one of the elements that always kind of is a challenge that I’ve had is people are very good at harvesting data, but they tend to not do too much about it. And they throw it into a spreadsheet and forget about it. But it’s one of these elements in the poultry industry, that if you really get the data and start to analyze it, it can give you invaluable indicators as to how to improve performance, how to avoid specific situations from arising. So it can give you tails. And means if you can get as near to real time as possible, you can potentially intervene for a better outcome, or avoid a negative outcome.   

[00:05:22] And talking about the data, it’s always fascinated me how this connected veterinarian and production data can be right, because usually vets are operating as their own entity, and they have their own sets of information and data collection and everything. But the keys to combining all of the data, like you said, the key performance indicators, and the vet observations. So that leads me to the question of on traceability. So how the traceability of data can help you with the disease, disease prevention, for example. Yeah,  

[00:06:03] I mean, absolutely, I mean, if you capture this data, and you actually analyze it properly, it can really drive, you know, avoiding situations, you know, it can give you a predictive outcome, the more data you can base it on, and the more accurate that data is, you know, because one of the challenges we have in the industry is that the data accuracy, if the data is out, or it’s not associated with the timeframe that we’re looking at within the birds, then it can, it can give us a false result. So the more we can drill down into it, the greater the granularity we can get the detail can afford great opportunities to walk back to a specific event that’s happened and make an accurate prediction of a potential outcome. And this is where the value comes. And as you mentioned, Nick, it’s bringing all these data streams together, because one of the challenges that are faced in the industry is that people tend to operate in silos, the production team looks at production data, the veterinarian looks at serological data, maybe mortality, etc. And then the processing team looks at carcass quality, or the number of eggs or actual quality, etc. So if we can bring that all together under one umbrella, then we can start making the links of the timeframes are all linked up properly. And this, this brings immense value, and it means that you can make incremental improvements as you move forward.  

[00:07:34] Yeah, I mean, Barry, that’s very, very true, isn’t it? And do you see a lot of that purely down to veterinarians, so professional skill and expertise? Or do you actually see the the room or the availability of tools, data tools that are going to help predict what’s happening with a flock?  

[00:07:56] I think it’s an element of both Jim. I mean, having that data at hand will help people skill set improve or you’ll have a much, much better understanding of the situation

[00:08:42] Yeah I guess this is the thought that we already touched with Jim on some of the previous episodes where we talk about the skill set experience, and the tools that are available, you cannot replace skill and experience with the tool. But if you apply the right tool to the skill set and experience, you can get very good results. You can have, you know, absolutely different level. And I guess this this is what you’re trying to uncover here, right, because there are so many great veterinarians and specialists but they need more tools in order to work with all this data. And like you said, lots of data available from serology, results, blood samples, lab results, mortalities, weights, sensors, everything, all of that, yes, just like piles and piles of data, but you need to have some something that will be able to put it on the shelf and then you can look at certain things and do so certain results.   

[00:10:02] Yeah, I mean, just to underline that point is, I suppose you know, in my experience, we never really made any traction on performance improvement until we got all the parties around the table. So the nutritionists, the veterinarian, the production management team, everybody assessing and the data on the performance information we had to add. And then we collectively worked out the solution or the next actions we were going to take. But it was a collective, because you know, in isolation, as you mentioned, already very, it’s very difficult to really capitalize on on that data, if you’re just looking at it purely only from a vet point of view. But if you get the team and the collective around, it really helps underpin the right actions to take things forward.   

[00:10:46] And as an absolute critical point, because it’s all about teamwork, there’s no individual, and there’s no one section of the organization that would really drive performance forward. Everybody needs to collaborate, everybody needs to contribute. And by contributing their observations, and whatever data they have, and bringing it all together, as we already mentioned, it gives you that opportunity to make these improvements. And they may just be incremental improvements, but they’re always in the march forward, that you will get more eggs, you will get more meat per kilogram, or sorry, per meter square, and on the on the ground, or whatever really is financially important for the business to make money. Because at the end of the day, we we need to make an element of money. Because that’s how we continue to serve as customers who we can get food into the industry and make reinvestment back, and they have to continually improve.    

[00:11:47] Right, right. And since you have lots of history, and lots of experience, maybe you can share with us Barry some of the tips and tricks, and what are the good data practices that can help vets to do their job better.    

[00:12:03] I mean, at the end of the day, I mean, where I come from, and my experiences in it is that any facts that are truthful, and and reflective of what’s happening are the greatest friends that you can have in the industry, you can bring them together, and the more factual data that there is, this will help us to drive better and better decisions for the industry for the company as we move forward. And that way, we will achieve the optimum performance and the biological performance and optimal welfare of the birds because no birds will ever perform well, without having its basic requirements and needs met or exceeded. So it kind of ties into the kind of welfare aspects of it as well. And, and it’s probably one of these kind of myths in the industry, that people believe that the higher and further or harder you push your animals, that it compromises welfare, but the higher the irony is the highest performing animals tend to have the best welfare. And one of one of the challenges that I’ve had in the industry and one of the things that works me up is there’s no worse thing than capturing data, and doing nothing with it, and never reviewing it, because it’s a waste of time, effort. And it’s completely an utterly wasted opportunity. And it’s all about capitalizing and driving these opportunities forward. And and the cardinal rule of thumb that I’ve always worked with is if data is captured, it has to be analyzed in a timely fashion. And the sooner the better. And is as near to real time as you possibly can and adds immense value if you act upon it, as long as it’s accurate data, because we’ve we’ve mentioned them sensors, etc. We need to make sure that whatever data we’re capturing is factual. And our sensor can go faulty. So if it doesn’t feel right, versus what what the birds are telling us question it, you know, because if we put bad data and only buy data is going to come out, and it’s going to complicate the situation. 

[00:14:12] Absolutely. I cannot agree more on this one, because this is just a great statement. And we’ve been emphasizing it for several episodes already that the data is the key for everything. And the data, generates your predictions, generates your reports generates your again, welfare assessments, everything. So you got to use the data.   

[00:14:41] Yeah, it’s really, really important. It’s critical to the success of any business, isn’t it? Not just the role of a vet and critical to their success, but the whole organization to use data. We talk about leverage and data. We’ve talked about that and then quite a few episodes about how you leverage the data you have in your business. And again, Barry You know, in summing up the discussion we’ve had, you know, you’re talking about credible data, you’re talking about making sure it’s visible within organizations, and you’re making sure there’s a kind of team approach to it, which is farm management team, the vet, the nutritionist, and the technical support team generally. So it’s been good to talk to you this afternoon and to really about the how data supports the vets position allows them to do a better, more professional job, or the granularity of data is quite key nowadays, with real time data opportunity available to us to send something etc, which helps, again, in terms of your tool set as a vet. And, yeah, there’s tools of over there all supportive, I guess, in terms of software tools, all supporting the professional elements, your veterinary consultants, or the in house veterinarian to do their job more effectively. And facts our friends, and that really strong data practices support continuous improvement in organizations. So it’s been really good chatting to you again today. We look forward to having a chat to you and some other stuff in in the near future. But thank you very much for today.   

[00:16:02] Oh, absolute pleasure. And it’s great to have these discussions. 

[00:16:24] Yeah. Thanks, Barry. And we’ll we’ll meet with you again. And then our next step is out of the AGcelerate. We’ll talk about welfare. And we’ll talk about all those aspects of how to understand what’s best for chicken, how to learn, speak their language, and do what’s best for them. In the meanwhile, please follow us on social media. We’re on LinkedIn on Instagram on Twitter, and see you in the next episode. Okay, thanks a lot. Thanks, Barry. Thanks, ciao.  

[00:16:58] Thanks, everybody. pleasure meeting you and talking.   

[00:17:01] Bye bye

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