Kathy is Ag-Thankful

This blog post is written by cattle veterinarian Kathy Swift (@cowartandmore)

I grew up on my parents’ 100 registered Holstein cow dairy farm in Northern Virginia.  Cattle have been a part of my life since I can remember and I started showing them when I was eight.  I also recall at age 12 deciding I was going to be a cattle veterinarian.  I’m not sure that there was a specific event that precipitated that decision, but I remember it was something I felt very strongly about.

Kathy vaccinating a group of Holstein calves.

After graduating veterinary school in 1997, I moved to northern Florida.  In the course of performing some of my duties, I developed a relationship with the University of Florida Veterinary College.  Several times I was asked to speak to the incoming freshmen class about my duties to try to encourage others to join the field.  I would prepare picture slides of my typical day to give students a chance to see what it was like.  I would also prepare myself for potential questions such as what it is like being a woman cow vet, the long hours, skills needed, etc.  Several years ago when I talked to the class, a girl eagerly raised her hand when I asked if there were any questions.  She was quite direct and to the point.

With a confrontational tone she asked, “How can you work on animals used for food?”

Whoa, wasn’t expecting that one.

This was one of those moments, that looking, back, I even surprised myself with my response.  Instead of getting angry and offensive, I immediately responded in a calm, kind, thoughtful tone, “Because I love giving them the best veterinary care possible while they’re here.”

I had been asked by the general public numerous times why a cow would need a veterinarian, but never asked something like this.  Just because an animal is being used for food production does not mean it doesn’t deserve top notch veterinary care; the two are not mutually exclusive.

People are surprised to learn that I care for and get to know my large animal patients like any cat or dog veterinarian does.  I am concerned with how we handle them and how to alleviate their pain.  I look for ways to prevent disease and look for new and more efficient and effective methods to treat their sicknesses.  Yes, they are food producing animals and economics does play a part in decision making, but I am AG PROUD because we also make good decisions because the agriculture community appreciates that this is a living creature that deserves exceptional veterinary care.

I am proud of being a part of the agriculture community and I am proud to do what I do.  I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Kathy blogs about her passion for art and agriculture at cowartandmore.blogspot.com

Check out all of the great Ag-Thankful posts from the month of November. Your comments and emails are always welcome. (agricultureproud@hotmail.com)

Ryan Goodman lives in Colorado, is an avid trail and ultrarunner, and works with farmers and ranchers to help them share their stories of agriculture and how food is raised. Connect with Ryan online as @BeefRunner. #TeamBeef.
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