A SMARTPHONE app created by a Victorian sheep vet is gaining in popularity with producers confident it could help improve biosecurity and lessen the spread of emergency diseases.
When Tristan Jubb of Bendigo Sheep Scanning launched the Phone A Vet app in November, little did he know the significant relevance it would have in the animal industry a few months later as COVID-19 travel and gathering restrictions continue to be imposed.
Animal owners and livestock producers can access Phone A Vet through the App Store and speak with Australian registered veterinarians using text, voice or video calls or upload photos and videos for review during a session costing $24.95.
At least 45 vets are available through the service, specialising in everything from livestock to guinea pigs, with numbers of both practitioners and users rapidly rising as a result of new self-isolation standards.
"The travel restrictions are tightening, there are more and more vets that are finding themselves having to work from home and really want to triage the cases," he said.
"Our market research said that 95 per cent of people, if they decided they wanted to speak to a vet, would be prepared to pay the equivalent of a cheap bottle of wine to get that advice particularly when going to a vet is going to cost at least $60 or $70 and easily rises to a couple $100 if they decided to up sell treatments.
"A lot of animal owners are going to be very anxious, they are going to be at home, the mind games will be there while watching animals and they are just going to want to know what to do and they can readily, affordably, conveniently get onto a vet."
But beyond the ability to aid household animals during these times, Mr Jubb hoped livestock producers could see benefits in lessening the risk of potential biosecurity outbreaks.
"So many farmers have a problem and they don't engage with a vet or they engage way to late," he said.
"My wish is that farmers would use it to get early advice for early notification of emergency disease and early advice on situations that they feel can be a real animal welfare issue.
"Those are the big ticket items where small problems need to be kept small through getting good advice."
Victorian-based sheep and cattle producer Bryan Balmer of Harcourt joins Merinos to White Suffolk rams for his prime lamb production and utilised Phone A Vet to gain advice on foot sore ewes who were heavy in lamb.
"I'm not remote from veterinary assistance but I just wanted an indicative idea from a vet about what was the go," he said.
"I called Tristan (through the app) and took a couple of shots and had a video going so he could look at the animals I was concerned about.
"Really the idea of the app is not to do a definitive diagnosis but to give you some ideas of what to do."
Mr Balmer believed it was 70 to 80 per cent better than having a vet on site in the flesh and encouraged producers to be proactive on health issues.
"From a potential biosecurity point of view it might mean we can get onto things quicker if we get a detection of disease and we are not sure," he said.
"We are so dependent on export in our industry, this is a way to get professional advice on a farm without a vet having to go out there and make that initial assessment. It's a bit like NLIS, it's a great opportunity to provide some assurance to the industry.
"I'm surprised no one is doing it for humans for remote diagnosis."