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Published June 24, 2013, 10:30 AM

Expertise in large livestock

The North Dakota landscape is dotted with large, four-legged livestock, like horses and cattle.

By: Betsy Simon, Forum News Service

The North Dakota landscape is dotted with large, four-legged livestock, like horses and cattle.

But there aren’t enough veterinarians to take care of them in places like Slope, Bowman and McKenzie counties, where the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared a shortage of private veterinarians trained in beef cattle health.

That could make the news of veterinarian Erika Schumacher starting full-time recently at West Dakota Vet Clinic in Dickinson music to the ears of livestock producers.

The 30-year-old native of Dickey, a rural community in southeast North Dakota, earned a bachelor of science in biology, health science and chemistry at Valley City (N.D.) State University.

In May, Schumacher received her doctorate in veterinary medicine from the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine, where she had a concentration in equines and cow-calf medicine.

“I was raised on a farm and we pretty much had every farm animal you could have,” Schumacher says. “We had somewhere between 800 and 1,000 head of black Angus at home and we had thoroughbred, paint and quarter horses that we had shown all our lives.

“I always liked to treat animals and this was something I always wanted to do, especially after growing up and watching how our family’s veterinarian treated our animals. So, when I went to college, I went in with the aim that I would go into some kind of medicine.”

Kim Brummond, who owns West Dakota Vet Clinic and was the only vet practicing at the clinic until Schumacher was hired, says Schumacher brings expertise to the clinic that is desperately needed in western North Dakota.

“This area was declared a federally deficient area for large animal veterinarians and there just wasn’t enough support for cattle and horses in the area,” Brummond says. “(Schumacher) is helping us to fill that rather desperate need we have.”

In 2012, North Dakota increased the number of counties considered as veterinary shortage areas in state and national veterinary loan repayment programs to seven, including Bowman, Slope, McKenzie, McIntosh and portions of Dickey, Emmons and Logan counties.

By declaring the shortage areas, veterinarians who commit to three years of practice in such locations may be eligible to receive up to $80,000 in repayment funds through the national Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program, according to North Dakota Century Code.

Luckily for North Dakota, after four years away from home and an eagerness to be close to their family, Schumacher, along with her husband, Don, and son, Ryan, 6, returned home after she received her doctorate.

“I always knew that after I graduated, we would come back to North Dakota,” she says. “This state is our home, and we wanted to live in the more western area of the state, so Dickinson was a good fit.”

With her knack for relating to and speaking with farmers about their animals’ well-being, educating herself in large animals was a natural fit.

“My background growing up was in cattle and horses, so they made sense to be my concentrations when I went to college,” Schumacher says. “I would like to get into cow-calf producer medicine and try to do some background in managing herds.”

What is best for animals, Schumacher says, is to make sure they have received their annual vaccinations and check-ups, which includes dental appointments.

“I’m big into equine dentistry,” she says. “I hope in the near future to be able to hold demonstrations for 4-H groups to give them some education on it and to show them the services we have available.”