Month 4: If you could shadow someone's career in the dairy industry, what would you choose? (Veterinarian, nutritionist, dairy farm owner, etc.) What questions would ask him or her?

Do I have to pick just one? There is A LOT I donʼt know about ALL careers in the dairy industry, but if you make me pick just one, I would choose a veterinarian.

I guess I am choosing a veterinarian because in Ag class I am currently studying for the junior CDE competition in the Vet Med category.  We have over 100 tools and 100 breeds of animals to identify.  Some of the breeds I already know from experience.  Some of the vet tools I already know from experience, too.

My first experience with a vet started out very scary, but the he made everything all right.  We had just lost my first Ayrshire calf about four months before because of a dysfunctional stomach that caused her to bloat, but I had my new Ayrshire calf, Posey with me at the Sooner State Dairy Show in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  We were keeping a close eye on her and realized she was bloating up.  It was just before midnight when we had fed and our chores were done and we had come back, and had seen it and had told the breeder what was wrong.  He decided we should go ahead and call the Oklahoma State University vet hospital.  (Go Pokes!!!)  

We loaded Posey up and ran her there as fast as we could.  The breeder thought she had bloated up even more on the short trailer ride to the vet.  The man on call was really nice.  He was a giant, but he was a gentle giant.  He let us see everything.  He explained everything.  We figured out that Posey’s halter was tied too long which let her get into two other feed pans.  She was taking in too much grain for the amount of hay she was eating.  The doctor also had a student with him.  He taught her how to run a tube down Posey’s throat into her stomach.  We thought the girl would NEVER get it.  She would mess up, and he would demonstrate again.  Then she would try again.  Finally they got the tube in Posey’s throat and he poured mineral oil into her.  They kept her over night.  They said she COULD go with us, but she would have explosive diarrhea all night while the oil did its job and the gas came out.  So we left her there.  :)





Before we got there, I cried.  I didn’t want this calf to die.  The next morning, the breeder brought her back to us from the vet.  I hugged that calf and stroked her hair and petted her like I hadn’t seen her in forever.  If there weren’t a vet on call at a facility so close, I don’t think Posey would have lived.





The next visit to a vet was very interesting and not stressful.  Posey was born with six teats instead of the normal four.  We took her to the vet to get her shots, and her ear tattoos, and her extra teats removed.  I got it all on video.  The vet used a clamp on each teat and then removed the teats with a scalpel.  When he took the clamps off, there was no blood.  He sprayed a thick liquid on them to fight bacteria, and off she went!  She didn’t need stitches or glue or a bandage or anything!  Her scars are not noticeable unless you are looking for them.  As a cow, her udder is beautiful!  

I would think that the work of a vet can be interesting.  I think it can also be stressful working with some animals (and some owners) that are crazy.  I think it would be stressful to do your best to heal an animal and it died anyway.  I think it would be hard to see people not follow directions or not take your advice and not take care of their animals properly.  I can also see it being rewarding seeing the results of your hard work or seeing people that do what they need to to keep their animals in good shape.

I think my favorite vet med area would be reproduction.  That’s what the dairy business is all about, right?  You raise a healthy heifer to the proper breeding age.  You track her heat cycle.  You get her artificially inseminated with a semen that will improve her offspring.  You track her cycle to see that she passes over.  You wait a little bit to get her preg checked, and if it’s really important to you, you wait a little bit and have a fetal sex ultrasound done on her so you can see if she’s carrying a heifer or a bull.  There are several questions I would ask about ultrasounds and stuff.



How many fetal ultrasounds do you do per month? 

How long does it take to be certified on an ultrasound machine? 

What kind of education do you have to have? 

How much does a portable machine cost?

Where do I go to learn how? 

Same set of questions about learning how to do artificial insemination: 

How many do you do? 

How long for certification? 

Education? Equipment cost (a.i. gun, etc.) 

Where do I go to learn how?


I think veterinarians are a very important part of the dairy industry.  They can perform vaccinations, surgeries, and treat/fix things like hurt hooves.  One time, one of my friend's cows was standing cross legged, and the vet figured out her foot was hurt, so he made a set of blocks for her to walk on to take pressure off that hurt side of her hoof, and she walked normally while it healed up.

Veterinarians can teach owners how to better care for their animals so they don’t have to come to the vet so often.  Veterinarians can help with dairy cattle health in many ways I don’t even know about.  Sometimes, vets can help by doing a necropsy (which is like an autopsy in humans) so the owner can find out why an animal died and hopefully keep it from happening to any more animals.    

In the dairy industry, the animals need to be well.  The animals need to be free of antibiotics in order to sell their milk.  They need to be able to walk to feed and water in order to stay healthy to produce milk.  They need to calve in order to continue produce milk.  They need to have healthy udders. They need  to have as many heifers as possible to have future milkers!  Veterinarians can help in all of these areas. 

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Comment by Betsy Fleury on November 3, 2012 at 1:36pm

My husband Steve does do a lot of the vaccinations, injections and IV's needed on our dairy. But things like pregnancy checks, abnormal calvings, and DA's are out of his range. And being a small 35 cow dairy, we don't have the capabilities of doing this type of vet work. I know a lot of larger dairys are doing extensive vet work now themselves, since they have the necessary resources and manpower. But for the sake of all us smaller dairy farms, I hope the practicing large animal vet isn't a dying breed!

Comment by Joshua Luth on November 2, 2012 at 4:05pm

In the near future, I see vets becoming consultants instead of working on large animals. The farm will need to have somebody that is trained or taught on preg checking, DAs, and much more. Vets are becoming to expense and very limited in the ag industry. I have seen some vets charge a 100 dollars to IV just one animal. It needs to be done, but vet bills can be costly.   

Comment by Troy Lenssen on November 1, 2012 at 9:50pm

It would be cool to follow a large scale producer/handler manager. Like a McCloski (sp) from Fair Oaks.

Comment by Betsy Fleury on October 31, 2012 at 9:40am

I agree with you, Maddie. Vets are extremely important to the dairy industry! Unfortunately, now there is a great lack of large animal vets coming out of veterinary colleges. In some areas around us, there aren't any more dairy vets. Luckily for us, we have a great dairy-only veterinary practice only 30 minutes from us. This practice is actually expanding, since they are serving a larger and larger area as local vets stop practicing. They are now serving dairy farms in three states!  I feel sorry for some of those other farmers. I would hate to have a sick cow or calf and have to wait hours and hours for a vet to arrive from another state! So let's hope that more young people choose to be dairy vets in the future. We really depend on them!!!


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