Friday, November 21, 2008

Nebraska Veterinary History Part VI


By Dr. Leo L. Lemonds

After World War II, the number of new veterinary graduates and the intensity and techniques of livestock production in Nebraska, expanded rapidly. There was an acceleration of the trend towards partnerships and group practices among veterinarians. Multi-person clinics became common and more large and small animals hospitals appeared especially in areas where the nature of livestock growing production and distances involved made it feasible to reduce travel time and provided a flow of surgical and obstetrical patients to permit maximum use of the veterinarians skills.

In rural areas, the pickup with the mobile veterinary clinic complete with refrigeration and hot & cold water, helped increase the efficiency of making rural calls. Later during this period the completely mobile small animal clinic for making house calls began in Lincoln and Omaha.

However, even at the present time, except for the Lincoln and Omaha areas, most of the out-state Nebraska veterinary hospitals are true “animal hospitals” with facilities geared for both large and small animals. The group practice generally provided veterinary services in a more advanced and refined form. It has enabled practice businesses to be more attractive and efficient, to provide laboratory and restraint equipment and to induce supervision of lay personnel in nonprofessional services.

During this period, Nebraska practitioner laboratories became equipped to investigate in depth and detail, the bio-chemical considerations to fit the “new look” in livestock production. In dealing with the large units of food animals reared under unnatural conditions and on un-natural feeds, the practitioner turned to the laboratory requesting metabolic profiles, nutritional analysis and pathogenic identification to fit the new requirements. Gradually the Nebraska practitioner must keep pace into an era of computer-managed, science-dominated livestock production.

Following World War II there has been the emergence of practitioner specialization. Nebraska veterinarians in ever increasing numbers have joined an increasing number of highly successful specialty groups such as the American Animal Hospital Association; American Association of Bovine Practitioners; American Association of Equine Practitioners; American Association of Swine Practitioners; American Association of Sheep and Goat Practitioners.

The rate of change in agriculture during this period in Nebraska was so rapid that it was difficult for many practitioners to understand what was happening and to make proper adjustments. The return in numbers of the pleasure horse was a source of joy and revenue to those veterinarians who loved the horse. Meanwhile, the pet animal practice became an integral part of almost every practice.

More veterinarians, especially in the larger Nebraska towns recognized the need to specialize exclusively in small animals. The dog and cat’s life had changed from the barn to that as a member of the family in the house. The veterinary service for small animals has now become sophisticated with radiology equipment, all kinds of new anesthesia weapons including a variety of inhalants, a wide variety of diagnostic equipment notably the blood chemical analytical units, specific agents treating illnesses and immunologic vaccinations to protect against a wide range of diseases.

The concept of bigness in animal production became a real shaping influence on food animal practice, often not in concert with professional philosophies of animal health. Thus, while family farms and the traditional requirements remained (even though becoming much larger), there were the new huge cattle feedlots and large swine-production units with a different philosophy of animal health – one in which treatment of the individual animal was not regarded as feasible.

This meant a search for a new role, one in which the veterinarian would initiate and plan programs of preventative medicine, an approach with much of the actual animal manipulations delegated to the producer. The large animal practitioner in Nebraska reacted to these changed circumstances by developing and experimenting with various approaches to provide his training and capabilities in the form most useful to the livestock producer.

Initially, programmed herd-health ventures ranged from simple gimmicks to sound programs representing major innovative thrusts. After the period of trial and error and adjustment, it seems probable that a form of programmed veterinary medicine will survive and grow. Another program being put into effect to ensure healthy livestock at this time by the Nebraska Veterinary Medical Association is a preconditioning plan of selling calves that have been castrated, dehorned and vaccinated prior to being sold that will help to reduce stress and disease.

Also confronting the farm animal practitioner was the awareness that high labor costs led to more mechanization and confinement-rearing livestock. This, in turn, presented the practitioner with a changing spectrum of diseases, different from those to which he had become accustomed under pasture-rearing conditions. As animals lived in a more and more completely man-created and man-controlled environment, there was an ever-increasing host of bizarre metabolic, nutritional and psychological problems.

The importance of genetics and the influence of intensively selecting breeding animals reflected itself in the practitioners concern for animal health. In the dairy cow, for example there were many vague metabolic and nutritional disorders associated with the great volumes of milk produced by highly bred cows. In feedlot beeves and in hogs, the singular rate of body weight gains imposed new and hard to under-stand disorders.

Concurrently there was a change in the distribution of the livestock population in Nebraska. The dairy cattle population diminished rapidly. Feedlots of cattle, often gigantic in size, began to appear sometimes in areas where there was nothing before. Likewise, large climatically controlled confinement hog operations appeared almost everywhere.

In 1967, the hog cholera control legislation, which prohibited the use of the live hog cholera viral vaccines, left many Nebraska veterinarians with a career decision to make. Long-time large animal practitioners with roots deep in the community were reluctant to relocate. Some embraced small animal practice or simply phased themselves out of the profession.

Later, the farm animal practitioner was encumbered with new concerns as he sought to use the most effective drugs in food-producing animals. Because drugs can produce residues in meat products, possibly with carcinogenic properties, this required certain new compromises in treatment to keep the veterinarians and the producer – client in compliance with drug residue and environmental quality control regulations.

Non-treatment drugs, those given as growth stimulants and disease preventatives, became a greater factor in the altered environment and the veterinarian because of his training, found himself pressured to be concerned with therapeutic agents quite removed from animal therapy.

Another of the changes in the Nebraska veterinary profession was the arrival in the 40’s of the first woman and black veterinarian, Dr. Ordella Geisler of Lincoln and Dr. A. B. Pittman of Omaha. There are now many women and black veterinarians in Nebraska and they continue to play an ever increasing role in Nebraska’s veterinary history.

Throughout their history Nebraska veterinarians have shown tremendous ability to reshape and redirect their activities to conform to changing needs and times. Some changes have been subtle and nearly imperceptible, others have been dramatic. While there remains many gaps to be filled in Nebraska’s veterinary history –some lessons from our past may provide some guidance to the future as each individual Nebraska veterinarian plays their role in its history.


A Century of Veterinary Medicine in Nebraska

Saturday, November 15, 2008

How to Harvest Native Seed

A Homestead Congress Blog Reader writes..."I'd love to hear more about how you collect native seed. We are doing similar work in Colorado."

Homestead National Monument Ranger Jesse Bolli responds...

Thank you for your interest in preserving native landscapes. Local seed collection is an important part of any restoration. By harvesting the seeds locally, you are insuring that the seed is adapted for your area. Many hands are very important in a successful seed harvest. At Homestead, we are blessed to have a very involved volunteer group and a supportive community which make the job easier.

We do not use any fancy equipment when we are harvesting seed. A bag to put the seed in, gloves and training are all we provide for the volunteers. The key to a successful volunteer harvesting event is to do your scouting beforehand. Know what plants you want and where they are abundant.

At Homestead, we start each event with an educational and safety message. This helps to inform the volunteers why what they are doing is so vital to preserving native vegetation. We then head to the prairie to collect the seed. Ripe seed heads easily come off by using your hand to strip the seeds into the bag. Each species is put in its own bag. We have found that it works best to work in smaller groups, ten or fewer, ensuring that each group has one person who can easily identify the species that need to be collected. If you are targeting rare species, you will need to have even smaller groups or work individually. I have also found that it is helpful to make small guides for the volunteers to remind them what species we are targeting.

If hand harvesting is not feasible for the amount of seed that you need you may be able to rent or borrow a mechanical seed harvester that can be pulled with an ATV or tractor to speed up the process. Local Nature Conservancy and state game agencies would be a great place to start looking for a harvester to rent.

Other sources of interest

Inventor Helps Grasslands Go Native
ScienceDaily (Nov. 1, 2006)

Restoring California's native grasses
Agricultural Research, May, 2004

Wildlife Habitat
Warm Season Grasses for Wildlife

Friday, November 7, 2008

Nebraska Veterinary History Part V


By Dr. Leo L. Lemonds

Within this period or era of Nebraska veterinary history, there was an early period of retrenchment for the profession, a depression and a World War. In 1925, Dr. V.A. Moore wrote, “There has never been a time in the history of veterinary medicine in America when there was a like, or even an approximate succession of events which seem so to threaten veterinary medicine as those which have been recorded in the last few years.” (Jr. AVMA, July 1, 1976, p.58) This period had the agricultural depression of the early 1920’s financial panic of 1927-28 and the economic depression of the dry 1930’s in Nebraska.

The “veterinary depression” of the 1920’s may have been the greatest impetus to the advance of small animal medicine in veterinary medical practice history in Nebraska. It was also during this period that many dog and cat hospital facilities were built, usually in conjunction with large animal facilities. In 1928 the method of immunizing against distemper with the Laidlaw-Dunkin vaccine and in the 1930’s the first tissue vaccines for immunizing cats against feline distemper also gave impetus to small animal practice.

The character of the horse population had changed drastically in this era. Such factors as the movement of tractor harnessed power to the grain fields had simply wiped out the wagon hauling horses’ enroute from the barn to the field. The trolley car in the larger cities such as Lincoln and Omaha no longer used horses. Later – the automobile and truck removed the frayage horses that hauled coal, beer and other goods in most Nebraska towns.

Then came the modern road building era which helped bring farm products, along with the railroads, into the growing cities. Along with the improvement in roads, there also developed an improvement in communications through the telephone. This often expanded the boundaries of a veterinary practice.

The 30’s with its severe depression hit Nebraskans hard. Not the least of which was the veterinarians of that period. Many practitioners left to work for the state and federal Bureaus of Animals Industries in tuberculosis and brucellosis eradication and meat inspection programs. Many remained with the bureaus – others came back home when the economy improved. Some just simply stuck it out in their home towns as best they could – often taking food and other goods as pay.

The assignment to the veterinary profession of the responsibility of livestock auction markets helped many of the large animal practitioners to survive. Later in this period, farm flocks of poultry began disappearing and poultry production was the first of the industries to move into huge-mass production units mostly in southern states. In general, poultry practice was subtracted from the farm animal practice scene.

The greatest shaping influence on farm practice during this era began to occur just before mid-century as the pharmaceutical industry made available to the practitioner so many “miracles” in bottles, tablets and syringes.

The farm animal practitioner of the early 1900’s has been conducting his lonely farmyard struggle with his art and an assortment of available drugs. In his effort to treat pneumonias, septicemias and indeed all infectious diseases, he had to depend on substances which today might sound more like an incantation than ingredients for a prescription – iodine, mux vomica, gentian, ginger, pilocarpine, aconite, camphorated oil, strychnine, copper sulfate, magnesium sulfate, zinc oxide, petrolatum, chloral hydrate and autogenous bacterins.

Then at the end of this era and after World War II, from a dye (Prontosil) a host of chemical compounds was spawned including the sulfa drugs. From nature’s garden, many substances were divided and fractionated. From animal tissues, extracts were characterized and the architecture of complex body molecules unraveled in the highly productive search for new agents of therapeutic value. Products of bacteria and fungi were meticulously reaped and the miracle of antibiotics such as penicillin became a reality.

As the Nebraska practitioner systematically discarded the liquids and powders which he formerly used, he also had to divest himself of a similar amount of presumptive diagnosis and symptomatic treatments. Complex drugs did not necessarily make the job simpler and easier. The greater the drug, the greater must be the comprehension and skill of the user. Each new drug had a spectrum of features demanding understanding and respect.

Finally some of the more specific things that made farm practices easier at the end of this period, were such things as epidural anesthesia (spinal) for cattle, the sophisticated calf-pullers and by the early 1950’s the 2-way radios in almost every practice.

The 2-way radio greatly increased the efficiency of veterinary practices and literally replaced the use of the old party-line telephone. For the busy practitioner, warm meals became more common.

Following World War II, the Nebraska veterinary profession reached its greatest peak in respectability and professionalism. The post-war era was to be a great period of fulfillment for Nebraska veterinarians.

Other articles of interest

College of Veterinary Medicine, Iowa State University
A Brief History

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Tallgrass Prairie Seed Collecting at Homestead National Monument of America

In order to connect with nature one must interact with nature…

The tallgrass prairie was once a vast ocean of grasses, flowers, animals and insects. This tallgrass prairie was the dominant landscape covering over 240 million acres of the North American Great Plains before 1820. By 1900, this dominant landscape was slowly turning to farmland and the once vast prairie was left to scattered remnants. Today, less than two percent of the original 240 million acres of the tallgrass prairie remain.

Homestead National Monument of America contains 100 acres of this special prairie land, but not without effort. The monument was created in 1936. The prairie had already been transformed from its original state and needed restoration. The goal was to not only restore the prairie, but to recreate the view of what Daniel and Agnes Freeman saw when they made their homestead claim. The tallgrass prairie at Homestead National Monument of America is the oldest restored tallgrass prairie in the National Park Service and the second oldest in the nation.

The restoration, although spanning over 60 years, is still ongoing. The management needed to keep the prairie healthy is the work of its stewards. Hands-on stewardship aids in the appreciation and respect for ecosystems that are disappearing. From controlled burns, thicket and exotic plant removal, to native seed harvest, it is with this help the prairie will survive.

Homestead National Monument of America has been harvesting native plant seeds each weekend in October. Children, parents, grandparents and friends have all waded into the prairie to pick and gather seed from grasses and flowers to support the future of this special place.

To stand within the prairie, among grasses and flowers that stare you in the eye is a unique feeling. One can’t help but think of the pioneers that traveled through this mysterious and wondrous ecosystem. The awe that its vastness one inspired is truly imaginable when harvesting seed.

 Southeast Community College students assisting with seed collection.