Benjamin Blankenship goes to work like any other day. He meets his patients, does checkups, and even performs surgeries if necessary. Blankenship has a regular daily job, only his patients are cows.
Supply chain troubles
Blankenship, a livestock veterinarian for Ashby Herd Health, spends his days with the livestock doing routine herd checks. They are usually done once a month; however, being a livestock specialist in an area with a rich population of dairy cows — 198 farms in Rockingham County alone, according to the Daily News Record — means lots of herd checks.
“A lot of our work is preventive medicine, more than just treating sick animals,” Blankenship said.
Its ultimate goal, Blankenship said, is to help animals before they get sick rather than trying to pick up the pieces after something bad has happened.
Blankenship said unlike many other jobs, a day in the life of a livestock vet hasn’t changed much since the pandemic. Regardless of the lockdown, the world keeps spinning – cows are still getting sick and you can’t perform surgery on cows via a Zoom call, he said. For Blankenship, the biggest challenge of COVID-19 has been the lack of supplies needed to care for and operate on livestock.
Blankenship and his team were forced to ration their supplies, such as over-the-counter and prescription drugs, which is easier said than done. Scheduled appointments are on the schedule morning through afternoon, but her evenings have time allotted in case emergency surgery is needed. In an area where demand can change on a dime, Ashby Herd Health is tasked with estimating the amount of medical supplies available.
Another difficulty faced by Blankenship and his practice, he said, is the tax inflation of agricultural products. Blankenship said with farms having to pay more while earning less, many have had to close – a blow to the region which accounts for about a third of Virginia’s dairy production, according to the Daily News-Record.
“A lot of agricultural markets aren’t strong right now,” Blankenship said. “We depend on a market to sell, whether it’s milk or beef…or any of the agricultural products we produce in the county.”
While the pandemic hasn’t drastically changed Ashby Herd Health’s operations, it has had the opposite effect on Harrisonburg Animal Hospital.
Dave Ward, the hospital’s office manager, said major setbacks have accompanied the pandemic. The hospital pivoted to curbside surgery around March 2020. Since then, Ward said the hospital has shifted between curbside and in-building appointments, trying to get back to normal as possible.
However, “normal” has not yet been reached. Bailey McInturff, a graduate student at JMU, said she was uncomfortable at the start of the pandemic and felt uncertain about leaving her dog inside to be cared for while she stayed on the parking.
“[You’d] send your dog off with a vet tech and just hope he does well and gets well,” McInturff said.
Much like Ashby Herd Health, Harrisonburg Animal Hospital has struggled with a shortage of needed supplies like animal medications. Ward said companies need to prioritize the production of human drugs over those for animals, and that animal drugs are only just beginning to meet public demand.
The shortage was mainly in drugs, but the hospital also lacked regular office supplies.
“A lot of people were sourcing [on gloves] as much as they could,” Ward said, shaking his head. “Man, we really struggled to get gloves for a while – just regular gloves.”
There has also been a severe shortage of veterinarians and veterinary technicians to hire, Ward said, which has made it even more difficult to meet the needs of sick or injured animals. McInturff said he encountered this problem while trying to make an appointment with the vet.
“The phone lines were always busy,” McInturff said. “Telephoning and even getting an appointment was also difficult.”
Despite Harrisonburg’s infamous “dog food” smell, there is also a shortage of dog food.
“The shelters are full again”
One thing the pandemic hasn’t put in short supply is new pet owners. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, about one in five American households have adopted a new pet in the past two years.
“I know it’s been difficult for many in the industry, including us … to meet this demand,” Ward said.
At the height of the pandemic, Harrisonburg Animal Hospital and the entire veterinary community did their best to deal with the influx of adopted pets during quarantine. This, combined with an ongoing shortage of vets and vet techs nationwide, has led to a crushing disparity between doctors and incoming patients, Ward said.
However, in 2022, the situation could not be more different. Ward said many pets adopted during the peak of the pandemic are returned or abandoned as owners realize they may not have the time or money to care for a pet. new animal with the reopening of schools and jobs.
“There was a time when the shelters were empty,” Ward said. “The shelters are full again.”
Precious, a 2.5-year-old domestic short-haired cat, has taken up residence at Harrisonburg Animal Hospital since February this year because there is no room for her in local shelters. She has been described as “a loving little lady” by HAH’s Facebook page and is very fond of belly massages. They hope to find her a forever home soon, but it hasn’t been easy. In addition to dwindling adoption rates, Precious has been diagnosed with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), which means she should be kept indoors and away from other cats for risk. of exposure.
Ward warns JMU students to think twice before impulsively adopting pets to ensure they are fully equipped to handle the responsibility.
“I understand people who want to adopt pets… You’re talking to a guy who runs a veterinary clinic,” Ward said. “Sure [we] want more pet owners to enter the building, but we also want responsible pet owners to enter the building.
Contact Luke Freisner at [email protected] To learn more about the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the Culture Bureau on Instagram and Twitter @Breeze_Culture.