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Published October 31, 2011, 05:30 AM

Two Minnesota vets take part in YouTube series on modern livestock ag

People involved in production agriculture sometimes lament that most folks outside ag don’t understand it. Minnesota veterinarians Paul Ruen and Ross Kiehne are doing their part to help change that.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

People involved in production agriculture sometimes lament that most folks outside ag don’t understand it.

Minnesota veterinarians Paul Ruen and Ross Kiehne are doing their part to help change that.

“We need to get creative. We can’t complain about our circumstances. We need to improve the knowledge of the consumers we depend on,” Ruen says.

He and Kiehne were among 20 U.S. vets who participated in Pfizer Animal Health’s “Veterinarians on Call” series, which premiered last month of YouTube.

Pfizer wanted to showcase the “valuable, critical work” of vets and farmers who are dedicated to safe and responsible care of livestock animals, Pfizer says in a news release. The company discovers and develops animal vaccines and prescription medicines.

Kiehne and Ruen say they were contacted by Pfizer officials who asked the vets if they wanted to take part in the series. Ruen and Kiehne, who grew up within 10 miles of each other in southeastern Minnesota, say they decided independently to participate.

Helping his dad and others

Kiehne, of St. Peter, Minn., works for the Swine Vet Center there. On the video, he visits the pig farm operated by his father, Bill.

Bill Kiehne says on the 4½-minute video that he’s been involved with animals since he was a boy. His approach toward animals is, “You treat them well because they treat you well,” he says.

Ross Kiehne says on the video that “we have healthier animals” and “safer pork” than ever before.

He tells Agweek it’s important for people in agriculture to tell their story to people outside it. He speaks occasionally at various chambers of commerce events and finds that nonagriculturalists often have limited knowledge of it.

Kiehne, 40, who’s been a vet since 1999, says a film crew spent roughly two days with him, with the footage shot by the crew pared down to create the 4½-minute video.

So far, he hasn’t much feedback about the video, all of it coming from people involved with ag, he says.

He hopes the video will be noticed by more people outside agriculture.

‘A new concept’ to many

Ruen, of Fairmont, Minn., works for Fairmont Veterinary Clinic. He’s 45 and has been a vet since 1992.

His five-minute video shows his visit to a hog operation to check on a sow’s first litter. The sow is referred to as a “mom pig” on the YouTube site, a good indication that the series is aimed at people who don’t know much about agriculture.

On the video, Ruen says that “Pigs are beautiful. They’re a fun animal to work with.”

Also on the video, he reaches a plastic-gloved hand into the sow’s womb and pulls out a piglet.

“It’ll be fine,” he says of the piglet, stressing the importance of safe births and healthy animals.

He tells Agweek that he wasn’t sure whether the scene would be included on the video. A film crew spent nearly 12 hours with him.

Ruen says he’s glad the scene was included because people have a natural interest in young animals and how they’re born.

Today, a growing number of people think of animals only as pets, Ruen says.

“Feed animal is kind of a new concept” to many people, he says.

Ruen says that in his experience people outside of agriculture have a genuine interest in getting an accurate understanding of it.

Agriculturalists need to find ways to spread the word of what they do, always remembering that they’re in a distinct minority.

“We get in our own world,” Ruen says. “But we’re the outliers.”

To watch the series, go to YouTube.com/VeterinariansOnCall.

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