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It was Tuesday, November 23, 1982 and I was an intern at the Caine Veterinary Teaching Center in Caldwell, Idaho. The Teaching Center had a faculty of six besides me, and we met after each two-week rotation of senior students from Washington and Oregon State veterinary medical schools to review the students and get updates on state veterinary issues. Among the issues presented by our director, Dr. Stuart Lincoln, was his appreciation for all the cold weather we had just experienced. unbeknownst to me, there was an outbreak of Vesicular Stomatitis in eastern Idaho. Dr. Lincoln was sure we’d be spared in our southwestern corner of the state because mosquitoes, the vectors that transmit the disease, should have died and transmission would stop. That was the conventional wisdom of the day and regulatory veterinarians were reporting that the spread of Vesicular Stomatitis had subsided. Moments later, Delores, one of the Center’s receptionists, quietly slipped into the conference room and handed me a note. The note said one of the dairies we serviced had noticed a few large blisters on the teats of some incoming heifers and they wanted me to come out to take a look. So began the saga of an outbreak of Vesicular Stomatatis, a disease clinically indistinguishable from Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). Despite the recent twenty-four “vector killing” frosts in Idaho, the event Dr.
Lincoln had just assured us wouldn’t happen… happened!

This turned out to be quite the experience for a young, enthusiastic veterinarian. All of a sudden, I was on the frontline of a new presentation of a disease outbreak. The disease continued to spread within the herd until December 16, despite the fact that there was many more below-freezing days. I observed oral, feet, and teat lesions on the 332 cows that I examined. Nearly two thirds of the cows had lesions, many of them with lesions at multiple sites. Oral lesions were the most common, which resulted in excessive amounts of saliva contamination in the waterers. We were able to isolate the virus from one of the water samples. Animal-to-animal transmission was the means to the spread the virus in this outbreak.

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The AVMA elects its officers at the Annual Convention each summer, with the 2018 election being held this coming July in Denver. Last year, the election for president-elect was just a formality, as Dr. John de Jong ran unopposed. That is not the case this year as there are two well qualified candidates. Dr. John Howe from Minnesota, and Dr. Angela Demaree from Indiana are the two competent candidates.

First, I want to share a bit about the process of AVMA elections. The elections are held by the AVMA’s House of Delegates. Each delegate’s vote is ‘weighted’ with value depending on the number of AVMA members in their state. Large heavily populated states like New York, Texas, and California yield the most clout. When a candidate from one of those states or general areas runs, they have a distinct advantage. This year that is not the case, as both candidates are from our own backyard.

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Our winter weather has run the gamut this year. The warm thaw and rain that followed the super cold has created ice everywhere. Great care is needed to navigate our precarious environment safely. Yesterday, our 20 year-old Quarter Horse gelding, Joe, wandered out and found himself stuck in the middle of slick ice. So there he stood, in what seemed to be deep equine contemplation, trying to sort out what to do. Only after a long pause did he creep away with baby steps to better footing.

In veterinary medicine, segments of our profession, can sometimes find themselves in challenging situations. Luckily though, we don’t have to solve the problems alone like Joe did. We have organized ourselves to work collectively for the good of our profession and society. Unintended consequences that arise at the intersections of human endeavor must be resolved in a positive and constructive manner. Organized veterinary medicine, the AVMA and state VMA’s, are our voice in these efforts.

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Growing up on a farm in north central Wisconsin, I had a natural affinity to animals. My first passion was horses; my Dad used draft horses in the woods for making maple syrup. Later I became enamored with cows, and enrolled in 4-H and showed them at the county fair for many years. This innate preference for animals was no doubt a significant factor that contributed to my career choice of a veterinarian.

As a 12-year-old boy, I was amazed at the abilities and insights of our veterinarian as he attended to our animals. I was amazed at his ability to determine the pregnancy status of our cows by rectal examination. Given the challenges of artificial insemination, the rectal examination results were sort of a “report card” so to speak of our efforts. I always eagerly awaited the diagnosis, and when the cow was not pregnant appreciated advice and/or treatment to help achieve that goal. Additionally, I valued his ability to solve problems. From sorting out why a cow was sick and how to make her better, to delivering a “stuck” calf, the veterinarian left the farm in better shape than when he came. While this type of practice is considered “fire engine” practice, it was the norm back then. The preventive health programs that are common today were just being developed at that time. The notion of helping people with their animals appealed to me.

My curiosity in veterinary medicine lead me to seek job shadowing opportunities while I was in high school and college. Our veterinarian graciously allowed me to ride along several times. I learned quickly what a large animal veterinarian’s day was like and decided to pursue that career.

Aside from my affinity to animals, my job shadowing experience ranks as the next most important factor that focused my efforts to become a veterinarian. Recognizing the importance of job shadowing, I have returned the favor to many youths considering veterinary medicine as a career. The majority of those that rode with me while I practiced were high school or undergraduate college students. I always discussed the wide spectrum of opportunities that exists in veterinary medicine with them and enjoyed their conversation.

School organized Career Days are another venue to tell young people about the opportunities in veterinary medicine. My practice associates and I have participated in many of these programs at our local high schools over the years.

At the other end of the spectrum, I’ve had great fun going into kindergarten classes to share some of the things I did as a cow doctor. I always got loud gasps when I showed them a cow aspirin and a hoof nipper, the bovine version of a fingernail clipper. Young children are fascinated with animals, and frequently rank veterinary doctor as what they want to be when they grow up.

I encourage you to embrace the opportunities to nurture young people’s interest in veterinary medicine. We have to plant the seeds that will grow into the next generation of veterinarians.

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Market animal show and sales are common place across Wisconsin. These meat animal projects are a great venue to teach many valuable life lessons to the youth involved. Local businesses support the youth by buying their animals at elevated prices in the auctions. The prices paid for the champion animals is usually many times market price. The financial rewards of these projects have spurred youth participation and increased the competitive nature of the projects. But sometimes good intentions can run amuck. The allure of winning and receiving big payouts at the auction can over shadow the original goals. Teaching, which includes good husbandry practices and character development, was a priority of the projects initially. Now it seems that winning takes precedent; in this case, at the expense of animal welfare.

Docking lambs soon after birth is a routine management practice which is a generally recognized strategy to reduce fly strike later in the sheep’s life. In the past several decades as youth market lamb show and sales have become more popular, there has been a trend to dock show lambs shorter and shorter. The impetus for this shortening of the docked tail is to give the appearance of a more muscular rump and rear leg of the lamb, making it more competitive. Over this same time frame many in the sheep industry observed an increase in the incidence of rectal prolapses in these ultra-short docked lambs and suspected dock length to be a contributing factor. By this time, though, the UK already had established laws requiring that docked tails cover the genitalia of ewes and the anus of rams for health and animal welfare reasons.

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4610 S. Biltmore Lane, Suite 107
Madison, WI 53718
Phone: (608) 257-3665
Fax: (608) 257-8989
Email: wvma@wvma.org

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