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BREAKING NEWS

Local vets adapt to ag changes

By Staff | Jan 26, 2009

Whether animals serve as companions or work on farmland, they need caring professionals to see to their health.

Blue Earth veterinarians, Robert Bogan and Bernard Malone, are two such compassionate doctors. They often care for every step in an animal’s life, from complications during birth to geriatric care.

The Makotah Veterinary Center was constructed in 1971. Drs. Ledermann and Landman were partners when the local office first opened its doors. Previous to this, Ledermann had a practice in Winnebago and Dr. Landman was based in Blue Earth. In June 1973, Dr. Robert Bogan joined the staff. With the departure of Ledermann, Dr. Bernard Malone began his duties in Blue Earth in January 1982.

Currently, the Makotah Veterinary Center serves livestock owners south to the Iowa border, west a little into Martin County, north to Amboy and Vernon Center and east to the Delavan and Easton area.

“In the 1970s, 90 percent of our work was with livestock,” says Bogan. “In 2008, it dropped to 60 percent.”

Two of the factors Dr. Bogan cited for the decline related to a decrease in the areas general farming population and the fact generations change.

“Years ago, there used to be three or four farmsites on each section,” says Bogan. That is not the case in 2009.

“Farmers are retiring. Many of them sent their kids to college and now those children have found careers they prefer over farming,” summarizes Bogan.

A typical farm in the 1970s, says Bogan, was 200-400 acres. Farmers, in addition to growing grain crops, often raised livestock. It was logical for the farmer to feed corn to his cows and pigs. As time evolved, the cost of living went up, but the farmer was still earning about $2 a bushel for corn and $4 to $5 a bushel for beans. In order to financially survive, many farmers sought a second job. In other instances, they sold their livestock and turned their pasture and grazing lands into more tillable land, since there was more money to be earned in crops than in the livestock.Since feeder cattle can graze on poorer soil, Bogan has not seen a great decline in the number of these beef herds over the years. This is not true of dairy cow numbers though.

“Pasture lands are generally not good for raising crops, so the farmer can justify raising livestock on it,” says Bogan.

In the area of hog production, Dr. Bogan says it is an area where the “farmer must decide whether to keep up or to get out.’

Prior to the 1970s, most farmers raised their hogs in open sheds and the animals were often outside in the winter. This was not real profitable or efficient, since the cold temperatures made the hogs eat more grain.

Hogs have to be profitable. Therefore, confinement barns and the rules governing them came into effect in the 1970s.

Bogan explains 300-400 pigs (not sows) were first placed in these farmer owned buildings. The barns had to have slats in their flooring and power ventilation. With temperatures maintained between 60-70 degrees, the pigs were able to grow faster, used less feed and were more profitable for the farmer.

By the 1980s, sows were added to the confinement barns and put into individual stalls so they would not fight and bite each other trying to get to the feed. This prevented a lot of sows from being injured and increased profitability.

For the hog farmers not wishing to invest in confinement barns, Bogan says they can still remain progressive and efficient by keeping their fatter hogs outside and the lean ones inside.

“Good bedding and a shelter with few holes are necessities for hogs if they are not in a confinement barn,” he adds.

Over the years there have been concerns about the humanity of confining hundreds of hogs in a barn, but Bogan explains pigs generally have a better environment inside where the temperature is regulated, they have individual stalls and do not have to fight or bite each other in order to eat.

Bogan notes as sheep farmers age, it is often the end of the line for this animal on a farm. Generally the person taking over the farm does not continue the sheep operation.

However, he adds, sheep are a lot like beef cattle. They can be housed in the same barn which has been in use for several years and they don’t require continual updating by the farmer as hog confinement operations do.

“For a good manager, there is not a lot of building cost for a sheep farmer,” says Bogan. “The main thing is to feed them well and be there during lambing time.

The primary services the Makotah Veterinary Center doctors provide are herd health management, information on how to keep animals healthy, vaccination recommendations, pregnancy and care of the newborn. They also board animals as needed.

Blue Earth’s veterinarians work with all species, which is a plus for Dr. Bogan since he likes variety. He says he likes working with dairy cattle, beef cattle and pigs and in this order.

“My least favorite animal is anything that bites, scratches or kicks,” he says.

“We do see a few ferrets, hamsters, guinea pigs and parakeets,” says Bogan, “but I haven’t had to work with snakes yet and that’s okay with me.

More and more people are getting pets, so this has had an impact on the local veterinarians workloads too.

“About 40 percent of the work Dr. Malone and I did in 2008 related to domesticated animals. This continues to rise as the number of food animals decreases,” states Dr. Bogan.

Bogan says he continues to see more dogs than cats brought to the local veterinary center, however, cats are gaining.

“Black Labs are still the top breed we see here, but more and more crossbreeds are showing up,” he adds.

The future for veterinarians in the area will depend on various factors, but primarily the population.

“We see about the same number of food animals, there are just fewer people raising them,” says Bogan.

A 50 hour per week job, Dr. Bogan says the workload of a veterinarian is somewhat seasonal. He and Dr. Malone get a lot of night calls during the spring calving season.

“The thing I enjoy the most about this job is delivering a calf or a lamb,” Bogan says. ‘It is always somewhat of a miracle and sure is a lot better than salvaging just the cow when there has been a difficult birth.”

He also admits it is easy to get attached to some of the animals, especially those they board on a regular basis at the Makotah Center.

“The life span of most animals is 10-14 years,” says Bogan, “so we get to know some of the animals pretty well.”

He and Dr. Malone especially know who the pets with attitude are, so they are prepared to don a pair of heavy leather gloves, apply a muzzle, or use a sedative to calm the animal if the need arises.

Currently, the Makotah Veterinary Center has nine cages for dogs, eight for cats and four runs for dogs. There is room in the back for five more cages for overflow, explains Bogan. At Christmas, the center is pretty full with animal borders.

In the afternoon, high school students help walk the dogs, clean the pens and dishes of the pets being boarded. Animal technicians, Kasta Amundson and Angie Jenkins, also assist with this. Dr. Malone generally walks the dogs in the morning, as he likes to see and exercise them, particularly if they have had surgery.

“Dr. Malone does most of the surgery here,” adds Bogan.

There have been many advances in veterinary medicine since Bogan began his practice. Swine-wise was the development of the pseudo-rabies vaccination which has basically eradicated the disease that was once rampant in the 1970s and 1980s. The other major breakthrough was in circo-virus, a disease that was prevalent five or six years ago and caused a loss in pigs of 30-50 percent. The vaccine for this has since cut the death rate to a mere three to four percent.

Veterinarians still make ‘house calls.’ On average, Bogan says he generally goes to three or four places every morning, but sometimes only gets to one, depending upon what the medical emergency is.

Some of the other responsibilities he and Dr. Malone have are performing post-mortems, verifying pregnancies of beef cows at Arends Sale Barn, treating after sale livestock at Arends for lice, internal parasites and administering vaccinations.

During the Faribault County Fair, veterinarians inspect the animals there once daily. The first day the animals are checked for infectious diseases and the succeeding days they are examined for cuts or illness.

Drs. Robert Bogan and Bernard Malone continue to be highly valued by area farmers for their ability to diagnose and treat animals. Their veterinary skills enable the farmer’s livestock business to continue operating.

For domestic pet owners, it is knowing the veterinarian has heart and can be trusted in caring for their beloved companion.

Veterinary medicine is about people and pets, love and compassion. Bogan and Malone more than meet the criteria.