Kaufman discusses clinic, cattle health issuesWritten by Jennifer Womack
“It was started in the 1960s by Dr. Symonds,” says Kaufman of the clinic. “Dr. Don Smylie from Douglas worked here for a while, too.” Joining the clinic in the late 1990s, Kaufman bought out Dr. Booth, who still ranches in the area. Dr. Herigstad, also a former partner in the clinic, works part time at the business. Dr. Francis Zacharakis-Jutz is an associate vet with the clinic.
“We’re a mixed practice,” says Kaufman. “We do about half small animal and the other half large animal. We rotate through surgeries and each vet is on call every third weekend.”
In addition to his involvement with the clinic, Kaufman has a farming and cattle operation seven miles south of Torrington. “We have some hay and raise some calves and yearlings,” he says.
He was raised on the Kaufman Ranch near Chugwater, which has since been sold to the Bartlett family. After graduating from high school in LaGrange, Kaufman attended college at Eastern Wyoming Community College in Torrington for two years prior to transferring to the University of Wyoming where he earned a degree in Animal Science. “I was in vet school for four years at Colorado State University,” he says. “I graduated in 1982.”
In 1984 Kaufman launched Bear Creek Veterinary Clinic, which he owned and operated for 10 years. Moving back to the family ranch, he operated his vet practice out of his pickup for the next several years in conjunction with ranching.
It was when the ranch sold in the late 1990s that Kaufman joined Goshen Veterinary Clinic. “We try to do the best we can without spending too much for the rancher,” says Kaufman. “With food animal work you’ve got to keep the pricing reasonable. The producer wants to keep their cattle healthy, but they can’t spend too much money doing it.”
Kaufman says a great deal of their work with the agricultural community is focused on “herd work,” such as pregnancy checking, semen testing, testing for trichomoniasis and vaccinating against brucellosis. Nebraska, explains Kaufman, has a regulation that says cows can’t come into the state unless they’re 120 or more days pregnant or the bulls that have been with them have been tested for trich.
Beyond his day-to-day work at Goshen Veterinary Clinic, Kaufman spends a considerable amount of time spaying heifers. He says they can spay up to 300 heifers a day, but tend to do smaller bunches based on ranch size. “We can do about 50 an hour if things are going good,” he says. He and the assistant he travels with pull their own hydraulic chute.
“We go to Big Piney, northern Colorado, Neb-raska and up into South Dakota.” He says the bulk of spaying happens on ranches that raise their own replacement heifers and spay the “extras” after choosing the top end.
“Ideally, 10 months to a year,” he responds when asked how old the heifers have to be prior to spaying. “We go more by weight. If they weigh 500 to 700 pounds, somewhere in there is when we spay them. There’s quite a demand for it. Last spring was really busy.”
At the clinic in Torrington Kaufman says, “We’re doing ultrasounds on small animals. We can determine pregnancy and look at damaged tendons and muscles. In the horse industry we ultrasound for pregnancy as early as 11 to 15 days after they’re bred.”
Kaufman says, “Three of four years ago we were collecting studs and shipping semen. We were also ultrasounding mares to see if the follicle was big enough for them to ovulate. That was really big the last four or five years, but last year was poor because the horse market has been so poor that people didn’t breed many horses.”
Turning to cattle health Kaufman says, “The trich thing has really gotten big the last couple of years. We used to think it was a mountain disease, but it’s all over because cattle get on trucks every day going here and there and maybe coming back.”
When it comes to assessing the disease Kaufman says, “Three tests one week apart is the best way to go. If he’s a virgin bull, or just around their place and not commingled with anything else, one test on a special media they have is probably okay.” Kaufman says, “It’s hard for one test to pick it up. That’s why most people want three tests.”
Requirements, such as the one that requires all bulls over nine months in age to be tested prior to shipment to Utah, have increased the amount of trich testing taking place at Goshen Veterinary Clinic.
While Bovine Viral Diarrhea was earning widespread attention a few years back, Kaufman says it is no longer something he often sees. Producers, who thought they might have a problem, in many cases, have earnotched and tested their cattle. Today, says Kaufman, “We rarely see BVD infected calves at weaning or calving. The vaccines have gotten better and I think the whole BVD thing has gotten better.”
When it comes to preconditioning Kaufman agrees, “Preconditioning does mean different things to different people.” To his clients he recommends, “The ideal, Cadillac way is to vaccinate your cows when they’re open, like at branding, with a modified live vaccine. It’s got everything the cow needs.”
He continues, “Then when you go to precondition your calves two to three weeks before you ship them you can give those calves a modified live for those same things and then a Pasturella for shipping fever.” Kaufman says, “It does a lot of good. If you don’t give those cows modified live in the spring you can’t use modified live in the fall. You have to use a killed vaccine, which is more expensive and does less good. If you precondition with a killed vaccine, it doesn’t do near as good.”
Writing health papers is one area of Kaufman’s job that has changed over the years. “It’s not as simple as looking at the calves and writing a health paper anymore,” he explains. “You’ve got to have your ducks in a row when you write a health paper. Each state has their own little laws that are a little different than the other states.”
Caring for a few of the rodeo strings in Goshen County, Kaufman says that adds another element to the rules they track. If used in Nebraska, rodeo cattle have to be tested for tuberculosis every six months. Most other states require annual testing. Working with the rodeo bulls is a bit different, says Kaufman. He laughs, “You want to have a gate between you and the bull when they come out of the chute.” If you move he says they’ll spin around ready to fight. If you stand with a gate between you and the bull, they’ll wander off.
“It’s good,” says Kaufman of work as a veterinarian. “It’s nice to follow the history of a ranch. You see changes where the grandpa ran it 20 years, the son took over and now the son’s son is starting to get in there.” Kaufman says he appreciates the continual improvement he sees on area ranches.
“Everybody tries to do the best they can,” says Kaufman. “There are times they struggle, even the ranches that have been out there 100 years.”