MOUNT CRAWFORD — The solar had simply set in Mount Crawford as Ben Blankenship hopped the gate to greet two cows his sons are elevating for the county truthful.
His sons, Colton, 13, and Preston, 15, joined him later, brushing the animals that their father actually is aware of in and out.
Blankenship is without doubt one of the Shenandoah Valley’s livestock veterinarians, and like his colleagues, he discovered his method into the occupation due to a love of agriculture that he works to impart to his youngsters.
“I just knew that I always enjoyed working with animals,” Blankenship mentioned earlier Friday.
He grew up on his household’s farm in Tazewell, the place that they had cattle, sheep and horses. Blankenship has been a livestock veterinarian with Ashby Herd Health since he graduated from the requisite program at Virginia Tech almost 20 years in the past.
“It’s a lot of tough, long hours and a lot of tough work, and it’s all physical labor,” he mentioned. “In this field, you get a feeling you can actually make a difference, whether it’s just working with someone on the productivity of a farm or how you can certainly make a difference in an animal’s life.”
Livestock vets comparable to Blankenship play a key position in serving to the producers of Rockingham, Augusta, Page and Shenandoah counties preserve wholesome herds and contribute to the state’s largest money cow — agriculture.
“We do more than push medicine through a syringe,” Blankenship mentioned. “There’s a lot more to the job than that.”
“Every glass of milk that someone drinks, it’s our responsibility that is has no antibiotics and has no hormones in it,” he mentioned.
A former co-worker of Blankenship’s, Dan Hadacek, of Mount Solon, is without doubt one of the two regional veterinary supervisors for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. He oversees the 14 livestock markets and shopping for stations, veterinarians and processors over a big swathe of the commonwealth that features the Shenandoah Valley and Eastern Shore.
“My job is to make sure Virginia animals and animal products can go anywhere,” he mentioned.
That means inspections and dealing with anybody concerned to hold Virginia animals and animal merchandise disease-free to allow them to be exported and shipped anyplace on the planet.
The stakes are excessive as a result of if animals have illnesses, that will have an effect on commerce and thus affect farmers and everybody in communities like Rockingham County, he mentioned.
Hadacek labored at Ashby Herd Health close to Dayton after working in Iowa for 2 years after graduating as a livestock veterinarian.
“That was the best move I ever made because this is the best area in the country to farm and have livestock, and the reason is the farmers in the Shenandoah Valley very much benefit from the dairy industry,” Hadacek mentioned. “And the reason I’m saying that is when you have a large collection of dairy cattle, they take an extra standard of care as opposed to [other] cattle, sheep or pigs.”
“In other parts of the state, there are not dairies to have that base, and veterinary services are hard to find,” he mentioned.
Another Mount Solon livestock veterinarian is Brendan Martin, 32, of Valley Herd Health in Verona, who additionally grew up on a farm like Blankenship and Hadacek.
Livestock vets “grew up in agriculture, we love agriculture, want to work with folks in the ag community,” he mentioned on the best way to carry out a C-section on a sheep Friday afternoon. “That’s why I went to vet school.”
He agreed that the explanation there’s a powerful livestock veterinarian presence within the Valley is as a result of there’s many animals right here that want taken care of — a cycle that helps itself.
“Hopefully, we [livestock veterinarians] can work together with other entities and help producers be more efficient and the end of the day have a growing business,” Martin mentioned.
This January, Bob Hill, 62, celebrated his first full 12 months of retirement after 32 years in livestock well being.
Hill grew up in Blacksburg and however now lives in Mount Crawford close to Blankenship.
He additionally labored on his household farm as a child, and his pal’s father was professor of dairy science at Virginia Tech.
“He employed us at the dairy farm at Tech, milking and doing some experiments for him,” Hill mentioned.
Hill’s father proposed the concept that he may mix his love of the farm together with his knack and fervour for science. Hill attended undergrad at Virginia Tech and went to Georgia Tech as a result of, on the time, there was no livestock veterinary college in Virginia.
“The professors in Georgia knew graduates were in Virginia doing large animal work, so they gave me the name of a practice — Dayton Veterinary Service,” he mentioned.
He contacted the corporate a number of years earlier than he graduated and frolicked when he may within the Valley earlier than he joined full time. He labored there for over three a long time.
He mentioned probably the most fulfilling factor from the job over time was serving to producers succeed and aiding in animals’ recoveries.
However, not each case turned out excellent. Some animals wouldn’t make it, and it was a solemn prevalence, in accordance Hill.
“You just have to use your judgment to say this is a situation where this animal is not going to get any better and this animal is suffering and this is the humane thing to do,” he mentioned.
“It was always a very serious business if you had to euthanize an animal,” Hill mentioned.
He additionally mentioned livestock veterinarians are the primary line of protection between zoonotic illnesses and the human inhabitants.
“That’s a very important part of human health to recognizing these diseases,” Hill mentioned.