For me the answer is fairly short and simple: my faith, my work ethic, the people around me, a passion for agriculture and farming, a passion for cattle, and a passion for the pig.
I still remember the night in 1981 when I was 12 years old watching the movie A Bitter Harvest with my parents, who were crop and dairy farmers. I imagine many of you remember this movie. It portrayed a dairy farmer going through devastation after his cows were mysteriously “poisoned.” Cows were sick, and his family was sick from drinking the milk. The entire herd was eventually euthanized near the end of the movie. As a young girl, I remember being in tears and thinking, “By God, I am going to keep things like that from ever happening to livestock.” Looking back, I can laugh at what a naive, childish, and impossible thought that was. Parallel situations still exist for us today, and they always will. Over the last year, we all have seen the devastation in herds created by porcine epidemic diarrhea virus alone, without even mentioning other pathogens. Nonetheless, it is that same passion I felt then, at 12 years old, that I feel today. I know I echo the thoughts of many of you reading this. We are driven by the deep desire to make things better for the livestock we care for. The one thing that never changes is the livestock – they are always there and they never seem to disappoint me. And many times when running farm calls, my basic care for the livestock might be the sole motivation that can get me there.
As swine veterinarians, we are the James Herriots of modern-day swine medicine. My copy of All Things Wise and Wonderful has a picture of James Herriot holding a pig, while looking into the face of a sow, with an expression of happiness. I feel this contentment and truly love working with pigs. If I want to smile or laugh on any day, I go into a grow-finish facility, wait a moment, and there will be some activity to make me laugh. When I’m in a sow unit, I truly love the sows – they are mothers, and I have an honest appreciation for what they do.
My work ethic is a big part of why I do what I do, and I fully believe that working in agriculture develops a work ethic like no other. I was led by my parents’ example: they are now in their 70’s and still farm to the grind. As a family growing up, most of our time spent together was working together. I want to lead my son, Wyatt, by example so that he understands the significance of hard work and carries this through his life. My son and I have our own beef cattle and I maintain a small beef-cattle practice – it simply is a labor of love. To this day, when I bed my cattle, I always wait and watch. When they play in the straw, I find such humor and enjoyment in it, and so does my son. I love being in the presence of cattle, and do not like it when they are not in my life.
I am blessed to work in agriculture and experience wonderful things in life, including all the people around me. The people around you are family, and getting to work first hand with people committed to production agriculture is a joy. Colleagues, producers, farm managers and employees, clients, and farmers are some of the most wonderful people to work with in the agricultural industry. I work hard to learn as much as I can from many of these talented individuals. In one way or another, their lives have an impact on mine.
In the greater picture of things, my faith is the cornerstone of why I really do anything. To be able to care about the livestock and the people around me is a wonderful blessing. I believe it is what I am supposed to do in life.
Now, after the not-so-short-and-simple version, the answer ultimately remains the same. I do what I do because of a passion for the pig, cattle, agriculture and farming, the people around me, my work ethic, and my faith.
Lynette Holman, DVM Staff Veterinarian, Swine, Kalmbach Feeds