Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Large Animal Vet

I seem to notice a trend. Anything relating to cows requires early morning work. So again, we met our large animal vet, Dr. Frederick Hess, at the crack of dawn at his home in Amherst, MA. Hess is a likable guy, no-nonsense and good at what he does.

I’ll be honest before this story I never thought twice about large animal veterinary medicine. I mean, it only makes sense. There has to be someone who’s caring for the cows that provide milk for us and eventually become part of the food supply chain. There are so many issues that can come up…and you don’t want a sick cow anywhere in the midst of it.

Dr. Hess is a busy man. On the day we visited with him, he had more than a half-dozen house calls to make within a 100-mile radius and he told me that’s a light day for him. I got to see the birth of a new foal (well, we were within hours of the birth), a lame cow who needed to have its hoof trimmed down and removed of disease, a sick cow with a DA (that’s short for displaced abomasum) You learn this lingo as you go through the day, and a last-minute C-section on a pregnant cow. Now that is one thing I surely wasn’t expecting. Thank goodness Dr. Hess had some smelling salts on hand because that is a one amazing surgical procedure to witness. Well, I got to see most of it before I half-fainted. Betcha didn’t even know cows needed c-sections, did ya?

Dr. Hess was fortunate to have two intern/resident techs in tow to help him out, but he’s part of a dwindling breed. There aren’t many large animal vets practicing these days and it’s a huge issue for the American Veterinary Association. They are working hard to recruit new large animal vets while in vet school, but the interest just isn’t there. That’s part of the reason why, after 40 years, Dr. Hess is still practicing. He has so many farmers that rely on him for his services and expertise that it would be difficult for him to retire. He also loves what he does…and that shows on his face and his work. I truly enjoyed spending time with Dr. Hess and his crew…and have a newfound admiration for large animal vets and the tremendous work they do in keeping our food supply safe.

Yolanda Vazquez

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