The Future of Our Traveling Large Animal Vet

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The cattle industry is struggling, not just in regards to natural issues such as drought, feed, or animals produced, but concerning the human element involved.  Individual ranches get larger as the smaller producers are forced to sell out or retire and yet the population, and thus the demand for quality beef,  continues to grow.  Many cattleman’s associations have already seen this as memberships have declined sharply in recent years.  Yet in order to meet the continual demand for beef, there will never be a way to completely remove the rancher from the picture.  As other industries such as technology and the medical field increase and our next generation steps out into those markets, our typical rancher is nearing retirement age with very few stepping up to assume their places.  There are folks out there like myself that are already in or preparing to assume these duties and lifestyles, but not in the numbers seen in the past.

This rings true for many aspects surrounding the beef cattle production market.  A recent study by the American Veterinary Medical Association shows that only 2% of the 2010 graduating DVM classes are planning to work primarily with large ag animals rather than specialty or small animal practices.  I personally know many veterinarians and current vet students (I work at the Center for Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University) and as such, I have seen that fact firsthand.  50% of the current ag animal practitioners are over the age of 50 now (the same AVMA survey as above), and with fewer replacements, this could be a recipe for trouble on the horizon for ranchers and producers.  How, you may ask?  As the number decreases, their time simply becomes more valuable,  and the further they drive, the more expensive the farm call becomes.  It’s not any kind of cloak and dagger conspiracy, but simple economics.

And so, we all ask, what do we do about it?  My answer comes from my roots as a high country, Oregon rancher – self reliance.  Yes, there will be times when it is necessary to call the vet for a farm call, it’s unavoidable.  But there are many things we as the producers can do for our stock between these calls.  Educate yourself in the required testing needed to get your cattle to the market you are involved in.  No matter if it’s breeding and genetics, beef production, or dairy cattle products, there are ways you can do your own testing and actually pay less.   There are many classes offered to teach you animal husbandry and basic skills short of getting your Veterinary Technician license that can make nearly anyone more comfortable drawing blood, taking prepuce scrapings, and gathering diagnostic specimens.  Almost every State University in states with a high concentration of agricultural areas have a veterinary disease diagnostic lab, and with a little research online, you will find that they will accept private owner submissions just as readily as those taken and submitted by your local veterinarian.  The internet puts all this information and more at our fingertips, and I for one believe in using it to it’s fullest extent.  If, however, you’re not comfortable with this, there is another option.  Consulting and herd management services handle many of these same tests as well as nutritional guidance, feed sampling, and general health requirements.

Perhaps you’ve used one of these services in the past or plan to in the future.  I would like to hear any experiences or opinions about it, or answer questions about sample submissions as that is currently the line of work I handle.  Thanks for reading!

The USDA has a comprehensive listing of testing facilities that can be found at:


Late August Evening

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Such a beautiful night that a trip to the post office turned out to be a lucky photo op!  Harvest season is one of my personal times of year.  Hope everyone enjoys the pics!

Cattle Rustling? C’mon, this is 2011!

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It may not be the same as the days of old when a band of cattle rustlers rides in after sundown and makes off with the herd, guns a-blazing, but even today it does still happen.  Over the last year, there have been a number of documented cases that has risen since 2009.  While even after researching this topic I found no solid statistics as I was digging through old newspaper articles and online sources, I did learn a few interesting facts.  Branding and tattooing animals has been used worldwide for thousands of years, but things became much more legitimized with state and national brand registration.  Ear tags can be removed, tattoos easily covered, but altering or attempting to alter a brand is quite easily recognized.  Unfortunately, as free range has faded, so has the tradition of branding cattle in many areas.

Most cattle that are stolen from today’s ranchers seem to follow the economy.  As times get tough most crimes go up, and cattle rustling isn’t exempt.  If you read the news, most of this is happening in Africa and usually by hungry people that would otherwise starve.  Multiple deaths associated with rustling overseas have been documented even this year.  But here in America, most don’t just snip the wire to fill their starving family’s freezer, it boils down to out and out premeditated crime.  Prize bucking bulls are taken, and though a large number are retrieved, not before the thief stocks up on semen that often times sells for thousands of dollars a straw.  With technology coming along like it has and genetics so important in the rodeo circuits, those days may be limited, but it still presents a problem.

Most cattle are stolen, however, to turn a quick profit.  Transported across state lines and sold mostly in the private market as stockyards need proof of ownership and often vaccination records.  To the clever criminal, though, most of these can be forged, and to the private buyer who may not be aware another victim is pulled into their scheme.  I’ve been lucky enough to have never had to deal with this problem firsthand, and I never hope to have to.  If this has ever happened to you, I would be very interested to hear about it if you post a reply!

Backroads on a Summer Day

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Decided to take a day off yesterday before starting college again and thank goodness for the much needed time off- who doesn’t enjoy a week with no Monday at work?  It makes me feel lucky that when I get a day off, I don’t have to jam in a bunch of things or go to the city and have a fancy dinner..  Had a great day poking along the Snake River eating blackberries right off the bush, cruising the back farm roads and letting the dogs run and swim.  And finished off with a Rib-eye steak right off the grill for dinner to top it all off.   Harvest season is slowly coming in here after a very late and wet planting season, but we’re all hoping the weather holds for our local farmers.  It was a beautiful day, though and now the inside of my truck looks like a sandbox, but we got some great pictures and had a lot of fun.

Just Gettin’ Started…


As I recently began using Twitter, I have learned what a useful tool it is and have made some great connections with folks all around the agricultural community.  I also realized that there is often times much more to say and share than 140 characters will allow, so I have begun this blog called “The Back 40”.  Those of you who see my updates on Twitter know I am active in following ag news and current events, but may not know why or what that’s based off of.

I was raised on a ranch 15 miles outside of Baker City, Oregon raising purebred Texas Longhorns and grew up wanting nothing but to continue being a cowboy when I grew up.  I don’t mind throwing bales, feeding when its -15 out, or mucking stalls.  All part of a usual days work as far as I’m concerned.  I still go back to those days when I smell fresh cut hay or a summer rain on sagebrush.  But, then my folks did like a lot of small American farmers and ranchers are forced to do these days and sold out.   Not too long after that at barely 17, I joined the US Navy and juggled that career with riding bulls in a regional semi-pro rodeo circuit until a bad rodeo accident ended my NFR Finals aspirations late in 2007.  So upon leaving the Navy in June of 2010 after 9 1/2 years on active duty I decided to follow my heart in the next go ’round and stay true to my roots.  I am currently attending classes at Washington State University for my B.S. in Beef Cattle Production & Management.  Hoping to come out the other side of college in the Beef Herd and Nutrition Consulting field.

I tend to be a little old fashioned – hence my balking at online tools like Twitter and blogging, but am learning it will be essential to be competitive in today’s market.  I grew up with advice from old cowhands all similar to an old John Wayne quote and have lived by many of those points.  (Except the one about never washing greasy pans and keeping them in the freezer until the next time you need them..  That one I left in the bunkhouse!)  For me, this blog will be a learning experience coupled with the hope of continually meeting people in the ag world while presenting valid views and reports from my neck of the woods about agriculture but primarily the beef cattle industry.  So if you have any comments, suggestions, or just want to say “Howdy” feel free to do so and I look forward to it!