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.
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. (firstname.lastname@example.org)