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Q. How is technology changing veterinary medicine?
A. One of the things BI is working on is precision livestock farming. We have formed a group called Integrated Health Management and involves smart barn technology and capturing near real-time production data and barn monitoring. This will be a huge labor savings for our producers and veterinarians, to be able to monitor health real-time is an essential next step to reducing our reliance on additional people in a labor-thin situation.
Q. What do you enjoy most about your job?
A. Working with people and feeding off of their energy and passion – not just in BI, but in our whole industry. People ask me why we hosted so many interns through the years. That’s easy. Because someone did it for me. And in the end, I believe we always take away more from the interns than what we give back. It’s so fulfilling to see the light come on for students, to spark the same passion in them that you’ve grown over the years. That’s what gets me up every morning – the chance to interact with colleagues and peers and students and producers.
Q. If you could go back and do something differently in your career, what would it be and why?
A. I don’t think I would change a lot even if I could. But one thing I would change is to improve myself. I’d be a better son than I was, a better father, a better husband, a better mentor, a better coach, a better leader, and the list goes on. Most of that for me is focused on my personal life – not that it was bad – but I missed a lot of opportunities and probably still am. That’s why it’s good to self-reflect. We’ve got to listen to our life as we go along. I think all moments are key moments, we just don’t recognize it at the time.
Q. What advice do you have for someone who might like to do what you do someday?
A. Follow your dreams. Play with a lot of things and when you find something you are passionate about, whether it’s veterinary medicine or candlestick making, do what you enjoy and you won’t work a day in your life.
Q. How do you think COVID-19 will impact the future of the pork industry?
A. It is already changing it and we are seeing it in real time. It is impossible to go through what we are experiencing right now without fundamentally changing our industry. Consolidation and further efficiency improvements are inevitable. I am of the strong belief that producers are resilient and will come out of this stronger and better.
Q. What will the business look like 20 years from now?
A. Yogi Berra said, “Predictions are difficult, especially about the future.” I often can’t believe the changes that have taken place over the course of my career. Is there any doubt that rate of change won’t actually increase over the next 20-30 years? I think we’ll get better at what we do from a pork production standpoint. We’ll find ways to solve problems as they arise and continue to improve productivity and swine health. We will need to discover ways to do more with less when it comes to labor. People will be able to leverage themselves further and continue to improve. I believe in the next generation!
Read more about Waddell when he presented the Howard Dunne Memorial Lecture at AASV's annual conference in 2019.
PORK Perspectives is a recurring column that provides business and leadership strategy tips from some of the pork industry’s finest. Meet John Waddell, director of swine key account veterinarians at Boehringer Ingelheim.
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