July 07, 2015

(Dan) Hey there folks, welcome to Doc Talk. I’m sure glad you joined us today. We’re in Great Bend, Kansas, at Animal Medical Center where we’re going to be talking to Dr. Nels Lindberg, who is a veterinarian and owner of Animal Medical Center. We’re going to talk about rural veterinary practice, some of the things that are going on today, some of the things that we’re looking at down the road. Thanks for joining us and I hope you enjoy the show.

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(Dan) Welcome to the show. (Nels) You bet. Glad to be on it. (Dan) Folks, this is a good friend of mine and colleague, Dr. Nels Lindberg and it’s always a treat for me to be able to spend time with you. And I know how busy you are and so thanks a million for letting us come down on this beautiful night in Great Bend, Kansas. (Nels) It’s a nice day; the wind’s not blowing too fast, or hard. (Dan) This time of year in Kansas, that’s always a blessing. Well, folks, Dr. Lindberg has an incredible veterinary practice in rural America and one of the things that he and I have a lot of discussions on because we’re both very passionate about the future of veterinary medicine, is growing it and he is out doing it. I’m in the ivory tower, but tell us a little bit about your clinic. (Nels) This clinic, it was built in 1985 by Dr. Jerry Will, who was a predominant cow/calf veterinarian. I was able to purchase it in 2005 and really since then we’ve grown all phases of the practice, whether it is small animal, all segments of the cattle industry, cow/calf, stocker, feed yard, as well as the equine side of our practice. When we purchased it, when I purchased it, the goal was to begin to provide more service to gain more clients and service a broader area. And so in our industry, in the veterinary industry, if you are predominantly a large animal practice it’s become very cyclical. In the fall, you do your typical, on the cow herd side, you’re doing your preg checks and preventative herd health visits. And it kind of slows down around the holidays and Christmas time. And then it starts kicking in with calving season in the cow/calf sector and then it shuts off about the time they go to grass. And so those slow times in the summer, you need to be offering services that are other than cow/calf. And so the horse sector has done very well for us, we’ve expanded that option. Our small animal’s done extremely well, and then as for like myself, what I have found myself at this point doing is strictly feed lot consultation, which is 365 days a year. (Dan) Right. (Nels) It’s steady, there is a cycle to it, but in our industry as a consultant, it’s all year long. (Dan) And you always have…so in other words, you’ve built up probably the small animal side of things more. You’ve added some diagnostics, in-house testing for BVD, the equine center you built is fantastic. But all these are part of a business plan that you’re seeing the way to survive in rural America. I think people forget there is a lot of small animal work that needs to be done in rural American too. (Nels) Absolutely, I tell every vet student I can get my hands on; we get a lot of externs here from literally, coast to coast, as well as internationally. And a lot of large animal geared kids have tended to want to just do large animal and as I explained to ’em, every person that’s got cattle or horses, they all have dogs and cats and they need somebody to take also take care those and that’s another service you can provide. And you mentioned diagnostics, and everything we’re geared towards here is growing our service side of our business and diagnostics and being able to do more for them in-house rather than have to send out or refer, it means more business for us. (Dan) Helps you make more business. We’re going to take a break. Folks, we’re down in Great Bend, Kansas, on a beautiful evening, Animal Medical Center with Dr. Nels Lindberg. We’ll be back after the break.

(Dan) Hey, welcome back to Doc Talk. Dr. Dan Thomson here with Dr. Nels Lindberg, veterinarian and owner of Animal Medical Center in Great Bend, Kansas. And we’re talking about something that we both have a lot of passion about and that’s the future of rural practice. But one of the things that we can’t talk about the future enough, is how much these dadgum vet schools costs these people to go these days. It’s unbelievable. (Nels) It’s sky rocketed. And you know, as you said, it’s something very near and dear to my heart. We host a lot of these externs as we mentioned. And we get kids coming out that are $200,000+ dollars in debt. We’ve had them come out here that were $300,000 in debt. (Dan) Just from their education? (Nels) Just from their education. And so we try to talk ’em through that a little bit. At that point when we’re talking to ’em, it’s a little too late. I’d really rather be talking to kids prior to that and how to number one, not go into so much debt, or not go into any debt at all, and get it done, and then how to manage their debt. And then from there, they get out in the real world and they expect an appropriate salary from us to basically help service their debt. (Dan) Right. (Nels) When it gets that high, that debt load becomes a significant portion of their income that they’ve got to pay back. And they come out, they don’t have a vehicle worth a darn, they are maybe trying to buy a house and they are staring at a hundred to two hundred plus thousand in debt and it becomes a significant debt load that they’ve got to service. (Dan) Well you do a lot. And folks I am going to have to brag on Dr. Nels a little bit because he will come to Kansas State, work with our students, provide lectures on financial, how to budget, you bought all the students a copy of Money magazine that attended your lecture which, you know, there’s a lot of people who talk about, “Well we ought do this and do that.” This is a person who does it. I appreciate it so much. So, what are some of the things you see in the future, what are we going to, I mean debt, we are going to have to figure out a way to do vet school cheaper or something? But something is going to have to give, coming down the road with this debt load in all college educations. (Nels) Yeah, number one we’ve got to realize that colleges rely on less from state funding. Every state in the entire United States, they’ve all cut budgets to state schools. And so, state schools raise money through tuition and more students. And so schools are off setting that. But from a student standpoint, we really, what I really preach to ’em is concentrating on not taking out so much debt and managing their money wisely while they are going through the process and/or working if they have to. And it can be done. There’s people like Dave Ramsey and his daughter Rachel Ramsey Cruz who preach it and they teach kids how to do it and what to do. I don’t know the answer, what I do know is it’s a problem. And my honest opinion is that it actually starts with parenting. Parents have to teach kids that if you want to go out of state, maybe that’s not the right thing to do because if you have a vet school in state, say vet school or med school or undergrad, if you just stay in state you can cut your tuition by half to 40 percent or even more. So, we need to think about those things as well. (Dan) We have to go to break, but I always tell people the best vet school to go to is the one that’s the cheapest. Folks, we’re going to come back with more with Dr. Nels Lindberg here in Great Bend, Kansas.

(Dan) Hi there folks, welcome back to Doc Talk. Dr. Dan Thomson here with Dr. Nels Lindberg, Animal Medical Center, Great Bend, Kansas. And we’re talking about rural practice. You have a wonderful practice that you’ve built. You’ve brought in some younger veterinarians to work underneath you. One of them has matriculated up to owner, co-owner with you, Matt Fehr. But when… I think that, now this is probably in general for people, whether you’re a veterinarian or not a veterinarian, but what are some of your keys for success for people? (Nels) When our veterinarians first come out, we kind of have a pretty steep curve and it’s not just in knowledge and being practical and putting it to use. But it’s a break in period. Because when they get out of vet school they haven’t worked, they’re soft. So it’s a break in period, that we’re talking to them a lot and it’s about work. And so, I have classmates that are veterinarians and we all want to look at numbers and whatever it might be, whether it’s daily or weekly or monthly, we want to know what production numbers look like. So I preach that everyone coming out is… you don’t have to worry about the numbers if you do certain things. And really number one, is providing an undeniable service. And you have to provide it in a very clean and friendly manner. But then after that it’s about work. You have to work. (Dan) Yeah, I know I hear you. (Nels) Did I say work? You have to work! And that’s what it’s about. If you are willing to work, I don’t care what the business is, you work your tail off, you work long hours, it’s going to happen. And it’s a balance, you know, you’ve got family, you’ve got other things you’ve got to do and it is a challenge. But as a professional veterinarian, as all veterinarians, I mean it’s our duty, it’s our job, we’ve got to work. And it takes long hours and one thing I tell all veterinarians coming out is we don’t leave until the work is done. And if that’s at six, or seven, or ten that’s when it is. We have a service to provide and people need that service. And we’re going to work till the works done that day. (Dan) And when you start to think about, you know, I get to start thinking about my Grandpa and I start thinking about my Dad. We’re starting to approach those ages now. And you start to think about everybody saying, “Ah, this generation doesn’t know how to work.” And it gets back to, I think that we all go through a maturation process. Some of us earlier than others and it gets back to that parenting deal that you’re talking about. But you know the work portion of it, the fiscal responsibility, it all gets back to character and discipline and doing the things that count when nobody is looking. (Nels) Integrity. Integrity is huge. (Dan) Yep. (Nels) …is huge in our business. And if you don’t have integrity and good character, it’s probably not going to work too good for you. (Dan) It’s very hard for people to understand because we have so few people in regular business like a veterinary practice where it is a day to day service to understand the personal trust and elevation of relationships. (Nels) And you talk about millennials and millennials they want to work, they know how to work. For us as veterinarians, we have to set up our expectations. To let them know what our expectations are and we have to be crystal clear in those expectations. (Dan) Yes. (Nels) If you do that, they’ll do it. You’ve just got to do that, be a mentor… (Dan) Lay it out. (Nels) Teach them, they want mentorship. And we have to provide mentorship as well. (Dan) Well, you do a good job of it. When we come back from break, I’m going to talk to you about what’s next in veterinary practice out in rural America. Thanks for watching Doc Talk and we’ll be back in a minute.

(Dan) Folks welcome back to Doc Talk, I’m here with Dr. Nels Lindberg from Animal Medical Center in Great Bend, Kansas. A wonderful, rural practice here in Kansas’ heartland. And Dr. Nels we talked about what’s going on today and we’ve always talked about the future, but let’s talk about some of the things that we’re going to see as far as producing and practitioners and what you’re going to be offering down the road. (Nels) Well, we have a regional practice mentality. And that’s the future direction we’re going, and that’s the future direction we believe our industry’s going. In terms of that, we cover more miles, we cover maybe more producers, or maybe bigger producers. And as time progresses we’ve got to be able to offer the services they need. And that may be beyond preg checking. That may be beyond semen testing bulls. That may be beyond routine service work. Does it involve audits and assessments and animal welfare programs and things like that? And in order for us to do that we’ve probably got to cover more┬ámiles. The days of potentially smaller practices and smaller towns, I don’t want to say they’re going to go away because any successful practitioner can built a phenomenal practice where ever. It’s up to that person. It’s up to the people to come to them. But we’re just going to be covering more miles. And a wider service area, wider geographical areas and we’ll have to do that to sustain our practice, to sustain our business model. (Dan) Yep. (Nels) That’s really what it takes. (Dan) And you see producers doing more and more on their own. And we talked about this, there are fewer emergencies, there’s fewer simple animal husbandry type things such as castration and dehorning. And we don’t know if we will be preg checking down the road. There are already blood tests and different things to that nature that you know, that we’re going to have to adapt. And I think it gets back to the… we have to offer what adds value to our producer’s farm. (Nels) Yeah, if we don’t add value to a producer they won’t use us. (Dan) You’re a liability. (Nels) We’re a liability and we’ve talked about trust, producers have to trust us. We have to trust them. And if that doesn’t happen it’s not a good relationship. But we have to do the right services, the services they need in order to do what they do, to have a good cow herd, have a good business. (Dan) And I think that the veterinary client/patient relationship in beef operations and food production operations, food animal productions operations, there couldn’t be a more needed relationship for producers and their security and their future, than working with their veterinarian. We have to be on the farm. (Nels) Yes, absolutely. With current direction, FDA is going on antimicrobial therapy and feed additives and… (Dan) Restaurants and animals welfare, food safety… (Nels) People want to know that we’re doing the job right. Sometimes it may drive us a little crazy cause we feel like they are questioning our integrity. (Dan) Yep. (Nels) And we’re out there at 3 in┬áthe morning and they’re sleeping in their bed. We’re still busting our tails trying to provide a safe beef supply. (Dan) At the end of the day, it gets back to, we just need to tell our story because we do a damn good job. (Nels) Absolutely. (Dan) Thanks for being here today. (Nels) You bet. Glad to do it. (Dan) Thank you for watching Doc Talk, you’ve seen me and Dr. Nels Lindberg talk about rural practice in America. If you want to know more about what we do at the vet school, you can find us on the web at www.vet.ksu.edu. Remember always work with your local veterinarian. I am Dr. Dan Thomson, signing off from Great Bend, Kansas, tonight and I’ll see you down the road.

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