It is an honor to be considered by the board for the vice-presidential candidacy of the AASV. I am surprised and humbled. The AASV has been my lifeline for professional development since I graduated from veterinary college 33 years ago, and continues to be a vital part of my professional life.
Like many of us, I grew up on a diversified grain and livestock farm learning animal husbandry from my father and grandfather. On our farm near Coleridge, a town of 500 in northeast Nebraska, we reared chickens, cattle, and hogs on 400 acres of crop land and pasture. When I was a youth, each February my father allowed my two brothers and me to select one pregnant sow to care for and to rear the pigs for our 4-H project. You can be sure I was there to protect my interest when the sow farrowed! That was the beginning of my interest in hogs. Occasionally our local veterinarian, Dr Lortz, would be called upon for various health issues with our cattle and hogs. It was fascinating to watch what he did. This sparked my interest in veterinary medicine, and by the age of 14 I knew that I wanted to help farmers the way he did.
For college pre-vet and undergraduate studies, I first attended the University of Nebraska and then transferred to Iowa State University (ISU) where I studied animal science, learning as much as I could about livestock nutrition, genetics, and animal breeding. I was able to work part time with Lauren Christian’s research group studying the swine stress gene and working on the ISU swine breeding research farm in the mid 1970s.
I attended veterinary school at ISU and enjoyed every opportunity available to apply our studies to livestock medicine. I especially enjoyed the diagnostic lab and the guidance of Bob Glock through the multitude of interesting swine cases.
After graduation from Iowa State in 1979, I returned to Nebraska and joined a three-veterinarian large-animal practice where I worked for 5 years. During this time I met my future wife, Joan. A few years later, we left to start our own practice. In 1990 we opened Whole Hog Health Center, a swine-specific practice in Hartington, Nebraska, where we now live. I completed the University of Illinois Executive Veterinary Program program for swine health management in 1993, and in 1995 I started Whole Hog AI, our boar semen enterprise.
Joan has been my best supporter, and in addition to being a vital part of our business as our bookkeeper, she has been the mother of our two children: Aaron, who is in college studying computer engineering, and Anna, who is a sophomore in high school.
I have been very active in our community, serving on numerous boards and filling church leadership roles. I have also been active professionally, having served on the state Pseudorabies Eradication Committee, the AASV Pharmaceutical Committee, the AASV Boar Stud Biosecurity Committee, the AASV Board Of Directors, and as past chairman of the AASV Foundation.
Now let’s talk about AASV
Livestock veterinarians have the greatest job in the world! Those of us in private practice are the lucky ones who interact directly with both the animals with which we empathize and the caretakers that we respect. Nothing is more professionally rewarding than the feeling of accomplishment from solving a difficult health challenge that alleviates animal suffering, enhances caretaker satisfaction, and improves the profitability of the livestock producers we serve. What a great fulfillment this is to our professional oath and contribution to the prosperity of our farming communities which we hold so dear. Every new doctor of veterinary medicine should experience this interaction sometime in their professional career and the bonds that are formed. Our predecessors whose veterinary practices were in hog-producing areas understood the value of this bond, and the prosperity created for rural communities. The veterinarians of the 1960s witnessed rapid technological advancements in swine medicine and modern swine production. To keep up with these changes, they saw the need to share swine-health information with each other – the beginning of the American Association of Swine Practitioners.
Since then we have evolved into the AASV. We have a great organization with great leadership and a great staff. Our core competence continues to be the interaction among swine veterinarians for the purpose of improving the health and wellness of pigs. This hasn’t changed in 40 years. The AASV and its members lead the world as the “nucleus” for information transforming scientific knowledge into practical solutions for efficiently rearing healthy pigs. However, the AASV membership has changed a lot in 40 years. Now, along with private-practice veterinarians and practicing veterinarians from other countries, our membership includes veterinarians employed directly by farms; veterinarians involved in academia, diagnostics, research, government, and non-governmental organizations; and veterinarians involved with development, production, marketing, and sales of animal-health products. Yet, with such diversity of supporting roles, all members believe in that same special relationship that exists when our veterinarians on the farm interact with empathy toward pigs and respect toward owners and caretakers.
An unexpected consequence has developed following the evolution of AASV as a leader of swine-health information. The AASV has found itself in the middle of controversy associated with changing public scrutiny of the pork food chain. Animal welfare and antibiotic usage have become key issues that threaten to weaken AASV’s leadership position. Strengthening our role on these issues and gaining the respect of pork consumers is our next challenge, and certainly not part of our core competence.
I believe it to be a high priority for AASV to enhance its image and the public perception of AASV as the primary source of expertise for swine welfare and antibiotic issues. It is vitally important for the future of AASV that we do not let our clients or the general public forget that we empathize with animals, respect owners and caretakers, and now include our sincerest respect for the consumers of pork. This is our next mission.