A veterinarian’s hands keep an animal’s life cycle in their care. The mind, however, directs the hands.
Anyone who visits Dr. Bob Smith knows that his way of thinking is different.
“He once told me I had to read 1993 Bovine Practitioner Second, page 4, about a problem I was having,” said Miles Theurer, the research director for Veterinary Research and Consulting Services and nearby Hy-Plains Feedyard from Montezuma, Kan. “I thought, ‘Yeah, okay.’ But I actually pulled it up and he got it to the point. “
What Theurer – and everyone who has worked with Smith – understands by now is that the vet knows their stuff.
It comes from more than 30 years in the industry, taking care of its people and livestock.
Smith joins the rankings of Larry Corah, Jerry Bohn, John Matsushima and Topper Thorpe with the 2021 Industry Achievement Award presented at the Feeding Quality Forum on August 24th in Fort Collins, Colo.
Smith joins the likes of Larry Corah, Jerry Bohn, John Matsushima and Topper Thorpe with the 2021 Industry Achievement Award, presented at the Feeding Quality Forum on August 24th in Fort Collins, Colorado
Smith grew up in Pittsburg, Kansas – five miles from Missouri and 20 miles from Oklahoma. His father worked on the farm, but the Smith family ran a few cattle, milked a few dairy cows, and had a few horses.
He joined the Beef Quality Assurance research effort 30 years ago and has not looked back. When he got involved, lesions at the injection site were known to affect beef quality. He helped develop new best practices by shifting injections from the upper bum to the neck. He developed BQA training courses on the process.
“We went from about 24% of the cattle carcasses fed with lesions at the injection site to virtually none,” he said.
In the early 2000s he became chairman of the BQA group, which deals with animal welfare. The group learned that stress suppresses cattle immune systems, making cattle more susceptible to disease and other problems. They developed a guide on how to handle cattle and established ranching schools across the country.
“We’ve made major improvements to the quality of our product, but we’re not sitting on our laurels,” said Smith. “We look for new opportunities and do not forget what we have achieved in the past.”
Outside of his work at BQA, he has spent nearly 25 years in post-education positions and almost the equivalent in the private sector. He is currently a veterinarian with VRCS, which supplies around 60 feeding places.
He has gained a lot of knowledge in his almost four decades of career and shares as much as possible of the personal encounters that he cherishes.
Smith has gained a wealth of knowledge in nearly four decades of his career, and shares as much as possible of the personal encounters he cherishes. Photo by Abbie Burnett
He will ensure that the yard staff follow the protocols correctly. When driving through the courtyard, he carefully observes the riders and hands them 3 × 5 cards with detailed notes.
Tom Jones, manager of Hy-Plains Feedyard and the vet’s friend and client for more than 30 years, said Smith lives and dies through education, husbandry, and logs.
“Doc Bob likes to use Stockmanship as his antibacterial agent,” said Jones. “But his priority when he visits our farm is education. He spends more time with our doctors and cowboy crews than with me in the office. “
According to Jones, Smith’s work ethic is legendary. To the best of his knowledge, few people have autopsied more cattle or have as much experience. “He loves to find out what went wrong,” he said.
According to Jones, Smith’s work ethic is legendary. To the best of his knowledge, few people have autopsied more cattle or have as much experience. Photo by Abbie Burnett
“I think the businesses I’ve been in have been doing well in part because Doc Bob took over the reins,” said Jones.
Every year Smith helps host an antibiotic resistance meeting at the Hy-Plains Education and Research Center. The participants represent nearly a third of the US-fed cattle production.
He loves to offer solutions to major challenges such as respiratory diseases or growth performance.
“This is where the producer gets the most return on investment,” said Smith.
With years of experience, his white hair and chronic back pain, customers may be wondering when he won’t be around.
“If my game of golf was better, I might have stopped by now,” joked Smith. “But I’m a terrible golfer and I still enjoy getting up and going to work.”
He hopes to be remembered as “a pretty good veterinarian”; someone who loved his job, his family, his God and gave everything he had.
“There are so many people who deserve this award,” said Smith. “Really, it’s a shared award. No matter what you’ve achieved, someone has helped you. But I am deeply grateful. “