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

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