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25 and counting

  • Car driving down a rural highway

    25 and counting

    Podcast serves the swine industry’s continuing need for knowledge.

    Courtesy of Pipestone Veterinary Services

Twenty-five years ago, without widespread access to the emerging Internet and mobile phone technologies, swine veterinarians found it difficult to keep up with the latest production information and knowledge. They also had a lot of “windshield time” as they drove between client farms. The situation gave the late College of Veterinary Medicine professor Bob Morrison, DVM, PhD, MBA, an idea.

Could someone record conversations about the latest swine research and deliver it to veterinarians for playback in their trucks? Would anyone pay for the tapes?

In 1995 over dinner at a St. Peter, Minn. bar, Morrison described his idea to two friends: Tom Wetzell, ’78 DVM, and Gordon Spronk, ’81 DVM. He pitched the idea as continuing the legacy of professor Allen D. Leman’s, DVM, PhD, Pig Letter newsletter. The project would need to be fun, and create opportunities for learning and teaching, which had been Leman’s mission. 

At the meeting logo

Wetzell and Spronk endorsed the idea and, eventually, so did NOBL Laboratories, a pharmaceuticals company later purchased by Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica (BIV). The company has sponsored the recordings since those early days. Swine farmer and entrepreneur Robert Baarsch joined the team to provide a producer’s perspective.

In the years since, the At the Meeting™ (ATM) audio series has evolved from audio cassettes to CDs to today’s podcasts, and ebbed and flowed from hour-long monthly sessions to bimonthly 45-minute recordings to the current 20-minute episodes, released whenever the opportunity or need arises.

What’s really interesting to me is how something that we thought would be sunset several times is now on the upswing.

Tom Wetzell, ’78 DVM

Today’s episodes regularly receive about 1,500 listens. That listenership and the program’s longevity has been surprising. 

“What’s really interesting to me,” Wetzell says, “is how something that we thought would be sunset several times is now on the upswing.”

Coming back

What has kept Wetzell and Spronk at the microphone is their belief in doing something for the industry, an intense curiosity about new ideas in swine production, and the recent involvement of Montse Torremorell, DVM, PhD ‘99, the University of Minnesota swine professor who inherited Morrison’s role following his 2017 death.

In a world overflowing with instant information, the ATM podcast continues to find relevance. 

“You always need to turn information into knowledge,” Spronk says, “and knowledge is what we’re searching for. ‘What do I retain? What do I discard? How important is it? How do I change my behavior based on that knowledge?’”

The COVID pandemic’s impact on the global swine industry led the group to produce more than a dozen podcasts featuring the industry’s leaders as well as outsiders. Listenership grew dramatically as the frequency of recordings rose. The response made the team realize the podcast does more than educate.

Today’s programs help us build relationships that are about more than sales.

Eduardo Fano, DVM, MSc, ’07 PhD

“The ATM podcast gives our sales team something interesting to bring to their customers,” says Eduardo Fano, DVM, MSc, ’07 PhD, senior associate director of swine technical marketing at BIV. “Today’s programs help us build relationships that are about more than sales.”  Fano’s support has encouraged the team.

“Bob was always getting us to cutting-edge places where production was going in a different direction,” Wetzell recalls. Their list of future topics includes antibiotic free pig production, touring a “smart” swine farm, producing a carbon-neutral or carbon-free pig, and ongoing questions about swine housing.

“The goal is to bring different perspectives into a topic,” Torremorell says. “When our pandemic-fueled fears subside, we’ll be out on the road.”