Out of the Barn, into the Home

More rural vets are shifting practices from dairy cows to their cash cows: family pets, says writer Jim Getz.

In Quinlan, TX it’s not every day you see someone float a horse’s teeth.

For William Claxton and other veterinarians, that doesn’t mean extracting molars to watch them bob in a glass of water, he said.

After watching sure a mare is firmly within a lattice of four-inch-diameter metal pipes called a stanchion Claxton grabs the pole and sticks the float between “Little Bit’s” teeth, writes Getz.

Large animals are a shrinking part of Claxton’s business, wrote Getz.

The numbers are similar across North Texas and elsewhere in the U.S. as suburbia eats up more and more farmland and vets turn to the part of the business that can make them more money: treating Fluffy and Fido, according to research.

“Horses can wind up being a lot of work for a low profit margin for routine things, annual checkups and so on,” Paul, Ingram, a vet in mixed practice in the western Denton County town of Justin, told Getz.

Waxahachie vet Michael Gilbreath agrees, noting that he had to stop going out to dairy farms in Ellis County a few years ago, according to Getz.

“It was just inefficient,” Gilbreath reports. “Then there’s the inventory you have to keep, all the equipment, and medicine for horses.”

Numbers from the American Veterinary Medical Association show that the trend is national, according to stats.

In 1980, 62 percent of vet offices were devoted mostly or totally to treating small animals such as cats and dogs, according to the association.

Economics plays one of the biggest roles, according to reports.

An accompanying economic trend is the increasing corporate ownership of huge farms and ranches and concentrated animal feeding operations, according to a recent article.

Independents vets who do specialize in large animals are becoming few and far between, the article stated.

Those who dedicate themselves to a practice that treats at least a few cows, pigs, or horses do so because they want the rural life, they say.

Part of that is just taking the time to really know your clients, states Claxton.

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