Katy Starr (00:01):
Hi, I'm Katy.
Dr. Tania Cubitt (00:02):
And I'm Dr. Cubitt. We're going Beyond the Barn. Come join us on this journey as we bust equine and livestock nutrition myths and interview some of the most intriguing experts in the country.
Katy Starr (00:15):
We'll go behind the scenes of how premium Western quality forage is grown and brought to your favorite farm and ranch retail store. We're so glad you're here.
Katy Starr (00:30):
Saturday, April 29th is World Veterinary Day. We want to recognize and honor those who provide not only general care for our animals, but are there when we've reached our limit of helping them on our own. The veterinarian industry, particularly in the equine world, is facing a shortage that has become very real. The thought of not being able to get help for your horse or other livestock when you really need it is worrisome. Who was there when your horse colicked or ran themselves through a fence resulting in some bad lacerations, or maybe they've been injured so bad, or their quality of life has diminished due to old age that they're needing to be put down. Veterinarians have missed countless family meals, their kids' music programs, and so much more to be there for you and your animals, when you need it most. Don't take what they do for granted. Today I'm putting out a call to action to show some extra kindness. Send a handwritten note, give them a call, send a text. It really doesn't matter how you do it, but tell your veterinarian just how much you appreciate them and everything they do for you and your animals.
Katy Starr (01:44):
Welcome back to another episode of Beyond the Barn. Today I have Dr. Duren, who is also with Performance Horse Nutrition, who works with Dr. Cubitt. Dr. Duren is joining us in the studio today. It's good to have you here with us.
Dr. Stephen Duren (02:01):
Thanks for having me.
Katy Starr (02:02):
And to tie into this, Dr. Duren actually has a relationship with our next guest that we're gonna have joining us in the studio today. And so we thought it would be fun for us to kind of jump in, have a fun conversation together to get to know our next guest who just happens to be a well seasoned veterinarian who's originally from Montana but now calls Texas Hill Country Home. His professional and life experiences are as vast as the span of Texas and with World Veterinary Day coming up, we're honored to have Dr. Jerry Billquist join us on the Beyond the Barn podcast today. So thanks for joining Dr. Duren and I today, Dr. B, we're excited to have you on!
Dr. Jerry Billquist (02:45):
Well, thank you for inviting me. I'm tickled to be here.
Katy Starr (02:48):
So just to get us kicked off on this conversation, maybe you could tell us a little bit about where and how you grew up.
Dr. Jerry Billquist (02:56):
I grew up in Southwest Montana. Little place called Anaconda at one time was famous for a big copper smelter when I was a kid. We had a small place out in the country where we had cattle and horses, mostly for 4-H projects and attended high school there and then went off to Montana State at Bozeman, obtained a bachelor's degree. From there I went to Fort Collins, Colorado to Colorado State University for graduate school and subsequently veterinary school after graduate school. So that's kind of where my veterinary career got started.
Katy Starr (03:30):
And where did you actually get your start with horses?
Dr. Jerry Billquist (03:33):
I got my start with horses with my dad. My dad was quite a horseman and we spent a lot of time with horses. Even when I was real young, he always had horses. He had a stallion that we had for umpteen years and he also did some horseshoeing for other people. He had a job in town, but that really wasn't his delight. His delight was to saddle up a horse and take a moonlight ride at 10 o'clock, 11 o'clock at night in the dark. Just scare my mother to death. But that was where I got my horse love from.
Katy Starr (04:03):
Nice. And obviously you kind of have a variety of experiences when it comes to your veterinary background in terms of species, but you do work specifically also as a equine veterinarian. So what kind of, I guess, drew you to that career path?
Dr. Jerry Billquist (04:24):
I always was enjoyed horses, you know, from the time I was showing them in 4-H and being around them. And so that kind of led me into the equine section of veterinary medicine. And when I graduated from veterinary school, I was fortunate enough to go to Fort Hood, Texas and become a veterinarian. And I took care of the cavalry horses, which was pretty unique. And so that just kind of contributed to it. I rodeoed a little bit in high school and college and so I was always around horses and horse people. So that's kind of where I got into all of the horse stuff.
Katy Starr (04:54):
One thing that I learned about you though is you were a member of the first class to actually graduate from Colorado State University's brand new veterinary teaching hospital in 1981. How did you come to attend graduate and vet school there? What led you to that school of all schools?
Dr. Jerry Billquist (05:13):
Well, as a Montana resident, we really in those days only had two choices for veterinary school, Washington State at Pullman or Colorado State at Fort Collins. And that just happened to be that I wound up going to graduate school at Fort Collins, was interested, my graduate degree was in reproductive physiology with horses. And I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Bill Pickett, who was kind of the eminent equine reproduction guy in the United States. And his partner was Dr. Jim Voss who was on the faculty of the veterinary school. So it was a no-brainer to go to veterinary school there after being in graduate school there.
Katy Starr (05:47):
Excellent. Actually, so Dr. Duren will appreciate this. I am a University of Idaho alum, but I almost went to to CSU. It was one of the school choices that I was thinking about. So I really loved that campus, the town and everything. It was really beautiful.
Dr. Jerry Billquist (06:05):
Yeah, Fort Collins was a beautiful place. When we moved there in 1974, it was 37,000. When I graduated from veterinary school, seven years later it was 67,000, had just exploded.
Katy Starr (06:19):
Wow. Yeah. Well it's a beautiful place for sure. So when you started your journey into vet school, cause I know you've done some mixed practice work, did you have more of a small or large animal focus in mind when you started school? Did that change at any point?
Dr. Jerry Billquist (06:36):
Oh, I always thought I was going to be a horse doctor from the time I decided I really wanted to go to veterinary school. But as you progress through there, you find out that some of the other species are as intriguing to work on as just the horses. And sometimes the people with horses have a dog or a cat that they want you to work on at the same time. So pretty soon you get pulled into a mixed practice in a lot of places and particularly in rural areas like Montana and Idaho and Wyoming. You know, most practitioners are a general practitioner of mixed orientation, so figured it'd be good to know about all of those. I've enjoyed the veterinary profession.
Katy Starr (07:11):
Can you talk to us a little bit, I mean you alluded to it, but can you talk to us a little bit about where you went in your experience right after graduating from vet school and how that came about?
Dr. Jerry Billquist (07:21):
Well actually I had obtained a ROTC scholarship as a senior in high school. So my undergraduate was essentially paid for through that ROTC scholarship. But then I put the army on the stall program as I called it when I checked in at Fort Hood, Texas to go to graduate school and veterinary school. And so I was commissioned in 1974 but never reported active duty till 1981. And as I arrived at Fort Hood and was in the personnel office, the lady asked me, well, you know what I was doing? I said, well, I'm here. I said, I've been on the stall program. And she started to look through my paperwork and she went through pages. She said, I can't find anything about this stall program. I said, well I stalled the army for graduate school and then I stalled them for veterinary school. And I said, I'm out of ways to stall them, so here I am. And she just shook her head and thought, boy, we've got a great one here.
Katy Starr (08:10):
Nice. What could you share, do you have some memorable experiences from your time when you were in the military, especially for somebody who went to vet school and then went into the military? Do you have any memorable experiences you could share?
Dr. Jerry Billquist (08:25):
Yeah, I think there's a lot of things that you can do in the military that sometimes you can't do in the, in the private sector. And so you got the benefit of being right out of school and the first year you're out of school, you had 30 days vacation and you know, that was kind of unheard of for somebody who'd been a veterinary student and been going forever and ever to school. As my wife said, if I went to school one more day she was going to shoot me. So , we went off to Fort Hood to the Army and I actually had a pretty good experience in the Army. I spent most of my time at Fort Hood, Texas. I did spend a year overseas in Turkey as the area veterinarian in charge of the entire country, which was quite an interesting visit. But I was sure happy to get back to the United States after spending a year over there.
Dr. Stephen Duren (09:07):
Dr. Billquist, when you were serving in the military, tell me about the cavalry horses that fascinates me. Was it pretty much just wellness care or do those horses, you know, suffer injuries, athletic injuries, like a lot of our modern or competitive rodeo type horses?
Dr. Jerry Billquist (09:25):
Yeah, these horses actually were used heavily in kind of a recruiting tool. They'd go out and make a public appearances, but they ran those horses hard, they worked them hard. And so we saw a lot of injuries. I had horses that actually got accidentally stabbed with sabers. They'd gotten too close to the pistol when the guys fired and they got some powder burns on them. Early on I had a lot of problem with horses with lamenesses and leg problems. And it was because the government was hauling them in these old cargo vans and pulled by a deuce and a half tractor that could go 40 miles an hour, maximum speed. And it had no springs in it. So just bounced the bigeminies out of these poor horses. They come home from being somewhere and it'd take me a week to get them back to where they could hardly get around.
Dr. Jerry Billquist (10:11):
And so it was a kind of challenging, I was looking at a horse one morning and kind of discussing this case under my breath and muttering to myself and a voice behind me said, captain, what's going on? And I whirled around not paying attention, looked up and there was the cavalry division commander, one star General asked me what was going on with thiese horses. And of course being a little bit of a brash sort of new graduate, I promptly snapped to attention, said sir, I said, we need to haul these horses in something besides this junk we're hauling them in. I said, I'm spending most of my time trying to keep these horses sound so we can present a program to the people that you're trying to impress with them. And I said, these things we're hauling these horses in, just don't cut it. And so he said, well what's the answer? And I said, well we need to get commercial horse vans to haul these horses in. And so the next day the contracting officer was at my office asking me what kind of specifications they needed for a horse van.
Dr. Stephen Duren (11:02):
That's really interesting. I know my dad told me when I was a young graduate student studying nutrition, I was always coming up with these new discoveries for feeding horses and my dad actually pulled out some cavalry manuals on feeding horses and the stuff that I was discovering, or I thought I was discovering in the eighties. He's like, yeah, that's pretty cool. You're about up to the early 1900s now, so keep going.
Katy Starr (11:29):
, You're figuring it out .
Dr. Stephen Duren (11:31):
Dr. Jerry Billquist (11:32):
Well those horses, they put on a quite a display. They would run them through a kind of a program that they would put on for people and they really worked hard and they went all out. They'd take and go down and rescue a downed rider and ride him back double and they'd just go on, you know, nine oh. And so nutrition was really important to those guys. And that was one of the things that I got to really participate in there that I enjoyed is making sure we had adequate nutrition for them.
Katy Starr (11:57):
That is so interesting that you had the opportunity to do that and work with those horses.
Dr. Jerry Billquist (12:01):
Yeah, the cavalry general was a little distraught when I got orders to go to Turkey for a year and oh I got cussed and discussed at the one and two star general level for a few days there.
Katy Starr (12:12):
He's like, where do you think you're going?
Dr. Jerry Billquist (12:14):
That's kind of what the cavalry General said to my boss who was just a colonel, was a hospital commander. He says, where's my horse doctor going? Why is he going there? And they assured him they'd get somebody in to replace me that was a horse person, which they didn't. But that was typical of the government. But I did get to come back after I finished my tour in Turkey for my last eight months of active duty time at Fort Hood and kind of get things back up to speed. So it worked out.
Katy Starr (12:38):
What was your like entire time that you had to serve following your graduation?
Dr. Jerry Billquist (12:44):
Four years active duty.
Katy Starr (12:45):
Four years. Okay. Okay. Interesting. Yeah, cause I mean we hear, you know, we hear stories, we hear experiences, things like that in the military, but I don't know how often, I honestly, I feel like this is the first time I've actually heard anybody talk about their experiences as working as like a veterinarian or horse doctor in the military and with the horses that are utilized for those services and everything. So that's really interesting.
Dr. Jerry Billquist (13:08):
Well and the pharmacy guy there at the hospital pharmacy was really intrigued with the horses and he was always looking up old cavalry remedies for me and trying to make things to see if I could use this or whatever. And he swore he had a compound that he put together that would grow hair back on spots that turned white because of an injury or something. And he was quite a character. But the cavalry manuals of old really had some good common sense medicine in them that a lot of people aren't even aware of.
Katy Starr (13:39):
Wow, that's so interesting. Okay, so now kind of moving into your time after that, you worked at a ranch that was in Frisco, Texas, but you actually, they were spread out in different areas with the variety of horses and work and what they were doing. But you worked on cutting horses, race quarter horses, thoroughbred racing horses. How was that experience for you and how did you land that position? Was it what you expected it to be?
Dr. Jerry Billquist (14:10):
Well, how I landed it is really quite a story in itself. I had gone up to Colorado State in November to a short course for the reproduction stuff to kind of make some contacts cause I was planning on getting out of the army in the early part of the next year in January, February. And so I was up there and I let the folks up there know that I was, you know, kind of in in the job market in the hunt for a job. And one day out of the blue I get a call at Fort Hood at my office from a gentleman who identified himself and said he was looking for a veterinarian, wanted to know if I might be interested in the job and I wasn't sure who this guy was or where he is coming from or anything. And so finally he said, well, he said, I'd like to talk with you, he said I'll fly down to Temple, Texas and I'll meet you at the airport and we'll visit a little bit.
Dr. Jerry Billquist (14:56):
So he arranged the time, he comes flying down to Temple and as I went to the airport it went to the little place where the small planes come in causethey did have a kind of commuter airline at that time that flew in and out at Temple. It was called Rio Scareways, or Rio Airways, we call it Rio Scareways but . Anyway, it's like some of those puddle jumpers you're flying in and out of into Montana and Idaho and Wyoming. But anyway, this guy pulls or he is coming in and he tells me I'm bringing, I'm flying my king air down. So I asked the gentleman at the fixed base operator, I said, what in the world's a King Air? He says, oh sonny, you can't miss that. It's a two engine airplane, it can haul up to eight people. He said, it's not a Cessna 152 or 162 or something.
Dr. Jerry Billquist (15:35):
So anyway, this gentleman pulls up and comes out and meets me. He's a very striking gentleman about six foot three, six foot four wearing a tailored three piece suit and he's coming to talk to some veterinarian from the army. And I'm looking at this guy with my eyes big as saucers I'm sure. And so we got to talking and he said, well, he said, I'd like you to come up to our ranch and visit our ranch before we make a decision as to whether you know you'll work for us or you are interested in coming to work for us. So we took a drive up to Frisco, Texas. I had no idea where Frisco was except it was somewhere around Dallas and it's actually North Dallas. So we got up there and in those days there were no cell phones. So once we got to the little town of Frisco, we went to the little tasty freeze right on the main road and called and he said okay. He said, just turn around and look to the east.
Dr. Jerry Billquist (16:17):
And he said and drive up over the hill and you'll find a treelined driveway with a gate. And he says, when you get to the gate, I'll buzz you in. So we got to the gate and we looked at this treelined driveway and thought, my goodness, this thing really looks familiar but we've never been here before. So we buzzed and went in and hadbrunch with the gentleman, his wife and his son and daughter-in-law, and another son and his girlfriend, and a huge deal. And we're just thinking, holy smoke, here's a couple of folks from Montana with two kids that are really out of our element and wondering what we're doing here. But anyway, we had a nice lunch and brunch and everything and then he showed us his facility, which was very nice.
Dr. Jerry Billquist (16:58):
And so he said, well I'll get back to you in a little bit and we'll talk salary and stuff. So we headed home and I later found out that this gentleman was a gentleman named Cloyce Box who had played football with the Detroit Lions in 1950s, and he was on the 1952 World Champion team. And he and the athletic director at CSU, a guy named Fum McGraw were teammates. So when he started looking for veterinarian, he called his buddy Fum McGraw at CSU and said, Hey, they got a vet school up there, you know, if they got any vets looking for work, well he promptly called over to the vet hospital and talked to Dr. Jim Voss and said, Jim said man, he said, I've got a guy that's down there in Texas that's just looking for a job. He said he ought to fit right in.
Dr. Jerry Billquist (17:39):
And that's how we wound up with the job at Frisco, Texas. And this gentleman had a oil exploration company and had assets all over the country. We had racing quarter horses in Texas and some of them were in Mexico sometimes, then they'd run two or three starts in Mexico and come back to the States and be a first time starter after they've had four outs in Mexico, which was kind of interesting. And then we had thoroughbred horses in Kentucky, and while I was there on the ranch we built a training center in Ocala, Florida, and then we also had cutting horses and Mr. Box used to come home every evening and he'd call out and tell the trainer, he said, have my horse saddled. He'd come out and then he'd ride cutting horses after he came home from work. And so it was quite a show place and it was quite an experience.
Katy Starr (18:25):
Oh I can't even imagine. And just thinking about that too, you know, as kind of up and coming vet students, like thinking about their career paths and things like that, it really just goes to show and not just for vet students, it could go for anybody, but just how important networking and relationships are in finding your potential career path. That's a very interesting way that you came about to get that job.
Dr. Jerry Billquist (18:55):
Yeah. It's quite a way to utilize networking that you aren't even aware of that that's gonna help you with a future endeavor.
Katy Starr (19:02):
Right. Very interesting. So how long were you there at that ranch before you guys moved to Montana?
Dr. Jerry Billquist (19:10):
We were there for almost two years.
Katy Starr (19:12):
And so you headed back to Montana because that's what you knew?
Dr. Jerry Billquist (19:17):
Yeah, that was kind of home and our boys were a freshman in high school and a grade schooler and we wanted them to at least spend some time around their grandparents. Both my parents and my wife's parents were alive at that time. In fact my grandparents were even alive at that time. And so they got to grow up, you know, kind of close to where their cousins were and got to know their grandparents, which I think was very good.
Katy Starr (19:38):
Nice. Oh yeah, I bet that was really amazing. And you did a lot of things when you were up there and one of your endeavors that you worked on was your mixed animal practice that grew. So what type of animals did you work with there?
Dr. Jerry Billquist (19:52):
Normally we worked with horses, dogs and cats. And I had a client who had exotics who we worked on llamas when they were very new and they also had a couple of the first Shar-Pei dogs ever imported into the United States they were trying to breed. So they were quite interesting. They were into exotics just to have something different and make money with them.
Katy Starr (20:14):
Yeah, interesting. And your time there in Montana, that led you to, you opened up more than one practice?
Dr. Jerry Billquist (20:22):
Correct. The last five years I was there, we had a second practice. I had an older colleague who was actually instrumental into talking me into getting into the Montana Air National Guard and he decided, he doesn't like the word retired, he decided he wanted to pursue different endeavors and we'd taken his emergency calls for many years. And so he approached me about purchasing his practice, which we subsequently did and did quite well with that. And that was just strictly a small animal practice and so started half higher associates to help me with the workload.
Katy Starr (20:53):
Right, nice. So duringthe same time you also happened to be traveling the Montana race circuit. How did you get connected there and how did you manage all of that with your mixed practice? How did you balance that?
Dr. Jerry Billquist (21:09):
Sometimes I didn't do a very good job of balancing.
Dr. Jerry Billquist (21:13):
I was gone more often than I than I was home for the summers. And my wife used to get quite frustrated with me. I actually got involved cause when I came back to Montana I went to work for a mixed practice who the practice owner was real active in the racehorse stuff and in those days, Great Falls, Montana raced 30 days right there in Great Falls. And so we were inundated with racehorse around there from basically March till the end of July. And then they moved around, they moved to Shelby for a weekend and then they moved to Western Montana to Missoula for a week and then they'd go to Kalispell for a couple weeks, then they'd go to Billings for the fall meets. And so it got to be lots of traveling and not paying attention too much at home or hiring relief doctors to help us out at home.
Katy Starr (21:59):
Yeah, no I bet. Well, and on top of that, you also had some work that you were doing in the evenings for the PRCA rodeos, right?
Dr. Jerry Billquist (22:07):
Yeah, I kind of got drafted into that. One of my classmates was involved with the Montana Pro Rodeo circuit from college at Bozeman and he contacted me there about to come and be the vet for the circuit finals and he put me in touch with the president of the circuit at that time was a gentleman named Jim Croff and he lived at Geiser, which was just out east of Great Falls, about 30, 40 miles. And so he got in touch with me to come and work the circuit finals in 1991 for the first time. And that subsequently opened the door to work in rodeos when I was traveling because soon people found out I was a circuit veterinarian and they said, well you're over here working these racehorses, you might as well vet our rodeo while you're here too. And so I kind of got drafted into that segment of things just by being there and I've really enjoyed all of that cause I've done that for so many years. And I still go back to Montana to vet the pro rodeo circuit finals. I was there in January for the 33rd year. I don't know how many more years I've got left. But, I think I got a few more in the tank yet.
Katy Starr (23:05):
Oh that's amazing.
Dr. Stephen Duren (23:06):
So Dr. Billquist, is that treating competitors' horses or is that treating the stock horses used for the bucking events?
Dr. Jerry Billquist (23:16):
The primary responsibility of the veterinarian at the PRCA rodeos as the onsite veterinarian is that the health and welfare of the rodeo livestock. But we wind up treating the contestants animals because we're there. But the priority is the bucking stock. And we've been very fortunate in that we've had very few injuries over the 33 years that I've been there. One of the most notable injuries that I recall is a horse belonged to a fellow named Ike Sankey, who's pretty well known in the rodeo world. And it was a horse called Skitso Skoal who went bucking out across the arena, and in Great Falls the arena was off on the racetrack and then came across the racetrack to the grandstands. Well in the front of the grandstands they just had panels up there. Well this mare was bucking pretty good, had bucked her rider off and when she looked up she was at the panel.
Dr. Jerry Billquist (24:02):
So she just jumped over the panels and went down underneath the grandstand wide open and there was nobody there, thank goodness. But she slid into the beer garden and wound up on her side with about 20 drunks laying on her to keep her still. And the pickup men were trying to go out and go around and get her gathered up and they were lined up for the night show and the Four Seasons arena and they wouldn't let the pickup men down the midway to get to the beer garden. So it was quite an event. So anyway, after they got the horse back up to the arena and we got to look at her, I said, we've gotta do some work on her leg. And so we let everybody leave and we took and put her in a bucking chute and gave her some sedation and had her step out and laid down and I scrubbed clean and stitched and stapled a front leg for probably 45 minutes and said, I guess that's as best we can do. And I talked to Ike Sanky the next morning, he said, I said, well how's the mare doing? He said, well her leg about size of the stove pipe, but she's tough, she'll be fine. And she went on and went on to become a national finals bucking horse. So I guess she did fine. And she's raised a couple of foals that have been national finals bucking horses. So that's my great rodeo story for working on rodeo livestock.
Dr. Stephen Duren (25:14):
Yeah, I'll betcha they didn't teach you that type of sedation in college that you'll be sedating them in a bucking chute and then you're going to let them go out in the middle of an arena and take all your stuff and and work quickly cause you don't know how long they're going to stay down.
Dr. Jerry Billquist (25:29):
No, you don't. They don't teach you that at all in vet school. You learn by the seat of your britches on that deal. You get to learn how to fix things and clean things and stitch and staple quickly.
Katy Starr (25:40):
That's awesome. Well, and you've been doing this for 33 years now, which is really incredible and just kind of goes to show how valuable you've been for them in that capacity. And in 2017 you were actually awarded the Zoetis Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association's Veterinarian of the Year Award. What was that experience like when you learned about that and got to attend the award ceremony for that?
Dr. Jerry Billquist (26:10):
Well that was kind of a long drawn out affair. The circuit board of directors nominated me for that award for several years and I would, it was in the top five for like three years and then we had a year where everybody got busy and I figured, well the door of opportunity for actually winning that award was over. And low and behold, the next year they got me nominated and I was selected for it in 2017. So with that, the PRCA invited us to, my wife and I, to the awards banquet there in Las Vegas on the Wednesday before the finals started. And we thought we were going to be at an awards banquet with a couple hundred people. There was probably 1500 to 2000 people at that awards banquet. And it was huge. We were somewhat flabbergasted and I had my brother and his wife join us, so we just had some family with us. But it was kind of surreal because at the rodeo you work behind the scenes most of the time, so you're never really out in the limelight. And and that's fine with me. I'm not a a limelight seeker, but I like to do the best job I can. And so when I'm behind the scenes and you never see me at a rodeo, that's a good rodeo. If you see me in the arena, that means we've had a wreck of some sort and that's not a good thing.
Dr. Stephen Duren (27:21):
Dr. Billquist, what kind of health programs are those bucking horses on? Because as you know, the, you know, outfits like Sankey and, and some of the others, they have really nice horses and they put a lot of miles on them and some of them even, you know, come out of Canada so they're crossing an international border. Are those horses all required to have the same kind of health certificates that the competitor's horses would have and are they, undergo routine vaccinations and a regular herd health program as well?
Dr. Jerry Billquist (27:52):
Most all of them do, particularly the better outfits because that's how they keep their horses healthy and how they hold up over the longevity. You know, most of those bucking horses when they retire are in their twenties. And so without the care that the stock contractors provide for them, they’d never make it that long. And so they take that real serious and one of the things I'm really impressed with is how serious they take the feeding of them and really make sure that, you know, livestock are taken care of, they’re well fed, they're always checking, you know, in summertime, make sure they're water tanks are full, there's always ample food for them and they really take that, their role as caretakers of those livestock pretty darn serious.
Katy Starr (28:30):
I think that goes to show too, for those that maybe even aren't involved in agriculture or maybe are just, you know, getting into it now, I don't think people realize just how important it is not only for them as a person to just be a good person and care about the welfare of the animals that they care for, whether it be the rodeo stock or you know, cattle ranchers, sheep ranchers, like anybody involved with raising animals. Sure they want to be good humans right. And take care of these animals. But if you also think about it from a pocket book, like it's not beneficial for them to do a poor job at taking care of their animals.
Dr. Jerry Billquist (29:12):
No, the animals without proper nutrition and care don't thrive well and don't do well. And so as rodeo livestock, they can't go out and buck to their full potential if they're half-starved or something. And the PRCA is really on top of that in one regard because as the, as the onsite veterinarian, you're required to inspect all those animals and their, their housing conditions and you file a report at the end of the rodeo, the veterinarian files a report as to the condition of the animals and housing and everything. So, and that's all reviewed by the PRCA folks there in Colorado Springs. So they have, you know, information on rodeos and also rodeo injuries. So they know that the rodeo injuries are minuscule compared to the number of times animals are out there in the arena. So it's, it's pretty well run outfit.
Katy Starr (29:59):
Nice. That's really great to hear. And to kind of escape the cold , your family moved from Montana back to Texas where you are now, you're doing some relief veterinary work. Can you share what you do with that for those that may be unfamiliar with that type of veterinary work.
Dr. Jerry Billquist (30:21):
Relief veterinary goes around and works daily for different practices. It's a little bit like the human doctors that travel around, you know, some of them are specialists, some of them are just general practitioners. But right now we are facing a tremendous shortage of veterinarians throughout the United States. And one of the places where we're really going to start to hurt is in the food animal veterinarian arena because so many of our practitioners are older, some of them are in their sixties, some of them are in their seventies and they're still working full-time and there's nobody coming down the pike that wants to go out to rural America and and practice like these people do and realize that it's an opportunity of lifetime but so many of them don't want to do that. But I get to go out and work, I've got two practices where I spend my five days a week at and one is a mixed practice and one is a, is predominantly small animal practice, but it makes a big difference in seeing a little bit of everything. And plus I do some horse work out of my house. I have what I call a boutique equine practice and people say "What in the world is that?" I said, well, I said some really nice folks that have nice horses that work around my schedule and we get along just great.
Katy Starr (31:33):
Yeah, that sounds like a good way to have things set up. And it sounds like you have quite a variety going on right now with the relief work plus having your own equine clients yourself as well.
Dr. Jerry Billquist (31:44):
Yeah, we sure do. And my equine clients are almost as eclectic as anything else. I have some folks who raise Peruvian horses, I have some folks who are into ranch horses, I've got some folks who are into competitive horses, and I have some people just in the backyard pets. So we have the whole gamut of the equine world out there that I have the opportunity to work with.
Katy Starr (32:10):
That sounds like fun, being able to work with a bunch of different types of horses.
Dr. Jerry Billquist (32:15):
It is. And some of the breeds that I'm, you know, we don't see a lot like these Peruvian horses are unbelievably tough little horses, they remind me a lot of an Arab horse in that they don't get very big, but boy are they tough and they're stout and they put these saddles on these Peruvian horses that weigh more than our western roping saddles and they weigh 700, 800 pounds and you think, holy smokes, how do they carry all those things? But they do it and they do it well.
Katy Starr (32:41):
That's so interesting. And so you have been and are currently very involved in the industry. I mean we've already heard a little bit about what you've been doing, but you've been working with the Texas State Grange Executive Committee, the Kerrville Area Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Equine Practitioners, which also known as AAEP, the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, Montana Pro Rodeo, PRCA Circuit Finals, miss Rodeo Pageant and Montana Working Ranch Horse Competition. So I mean, you've got a lot going on, you've got your handsin a lot of pots. But aside from your daily practice work, what is probably one of the, your favorite things that you get to work with and be involved with in all of your involvement?
Dr. Jerry Billquist (33:32):
Actually, probably one my favorite things is, is to watch the young people in our veterinary industry grow. I work with quite a few young people in their teens and twenties and I've had the opportunity to watch some of them just grow professionally and personally. And for me to be a positive influence in that has been the biggest thing that I'm proud of.
Katy Starr (33:53):
That's great. If you could share some advice with some of these younger vets, cause I know there's a lot going on, right? You say that there's a shortage, but there's also a lot going on in the veterinary field right now. If you had some advice for some of these younger vets that are going through school, what would you say to them?
Dr. Jerry Billquist (34:14):
The first thing I would say is pursue your passion. Find an area that you are passionate about, whether it's horses, whether it's cattle, and then really become as well educated as you can about that passion. Whether it's nutrition, whether it's overall healthcare, whether it's infectious disease, but find something that you're very passionate about and once you find your passion, work becomes a lot more pleasurable than just working to work. And always pursue a position where you can have mentorship for these young veterinarians. I think it's very important and have someone that understands what it means to encourage young people and give them positive reinforcement and also guide them in the right direction.
Katy Starr (35:03):
That's excellent. What do you feel has been the most challenging part about being a veterinarian and did it surprise you now that you've, you know, gone through all of your experiences? Or is it what you expected when you first started your career?
Dr. Jerry Billquist (35:20):
The most challenging part of our career is working with people. And I've heard years and years of young people when I was involved with the Montana 4-H horse program and stuff there in Montana about saying, well I really want to go to veterinary school cause I don't really like to work with people. But what you have to explain to these young people is that animals don't come with a checkbook or a credit card, they come with an owner and an owner has expectations. And so you have to learn to be a people person. You need to learn to come out of your shell if you're extremely shy. And that those are things that you have to work at your entire career. But the people are the most challenging thing. The animals are delight most of the time. There's a few that will give you a run for your money, but the most challenging part of the whole thing is working with the folks.
Katy Starr (36:08):
Yeah, I could see that. And I think this is also a good point to mention that for those of us that do have animals, horses, other livestock, to really, I think take an opportunity to step out of our own being and realize the people that are coming and you know, what kind of relationship do you have with that veterinarian that you're calling at in the middle of the night because something went wrong. When your horse colicked or and you're expecting them to be there. How do you treat that person? Like how do you work with them making sure that you show your appreciation for what they're doing for you and the animals that they're serving. Because I don't know a single person that's gone into the veterinary field who has not done it because they love animals so much.
Dr. Jerry Billquist (36:55):
Well, and that's where I got involved with it when I was just a little guy. I was at my grandfather's ranch in Townsend, Montana and I've got a picture of me with a little old straw hat on, I'm about four and a half or five holding a calf’s leg. And I'm thinking I'm the toughest little guy in the corral. And that was what stimulated my interest in animals in veterinary medicine. It was way back then. And so you just have to kind of think about where you want to go with your life and what you want to do with it and pursue your dreams.
Katy Starr (37:25):
Yeah, that's great. I know that this is obviously going to depend on the species that you're working with, but over your career, what do you feel like, and since we're talking more horses, we can obviously, you know, talk horses, but what are the most some of the most common things that you've actually had to work on and treat when it comes to horses throughout your whole career?
Dr. Jerry Billquist (37:49):
Probably the number one thing that you get to treat in your career as a equine practitioner is colic. There's more horses that have digestive upsets and drive owners and veterinarians crazy. That's probably the number one thing that drives them crazy. And right behind it is lameness. But we still don't have an answer for all of the colics. Some of them are treated medically and some of them require surgery. Some owners can't afford the surgery, some owners can. And so it makes it tough in that regard. And so it's really an interesting field and you learn something every day. And that's what I tell all my young people. I said, you know, if you just pay attention, you're going to learn something today. Now I don't know whether it's going to be about veterinary medicine or about life, but if you just pay attention, you're going to learn something every day that you're on this earth.
Katy Starr (38:35):
Right. And Dr. Duren, I'm sure you can attest to this because I I hear this from you and Dr. Cubitt all the time and you know, while there are always going to be circumstances that you cannot, they're going to be out of your control. Right. But sometimes if you can take that opportunity to prevent situations from arising, people don't always realize the little things from a management perspective that can cause colic. Right. When we're going from mainly a dry hay diet out to, you know, new spring grass or whether we're run out of our hay and or any other feed for that matter, we switch it right off the bat without any kind of transition. There are little things like that that we can do to hopefully minimize the risk of colic in some of our horses.
Dr. Stephen Duren (39:25):
Yes, absolutely. I mean, colic is that generic term that you always hate to hear, you know, for abdominal pain and there's so many different things that can cause a horse to have that abdominal pain. Most of it obviously is through the digestive system. So dietary changes and intake of water changes are all big. And the interesting thing for me from a nutrition standpoint is the amount of study that's going on right now with respect todigestive health and the things that we're learning. So, you know, it's still the number one treatment that veterinarians have to perform, but I would hope that we're, we're getting better at heading off a lot of these routine colics or collics that are management driven. And then I think we're going to get a lot better on, you know, how to avoid these colics from a feeding standpoint. How can we keep that digestive system, both the tissue as well as the microbes in there, how we can keep them healthy. So lots going on there from a science standpoint. So it's exactly like Dr. Billquist says, you know, pay attention and you're gonna learn something. And as a nutritionist, I get the same thing. I mean, I learn something every day and there's lots of new things going on.
Katy Starr (40:38):
Right. And Dr. Billquist, what would you say throughout your whole career, what is maybe the craziest or most interesting case that you've had to work on? It could be something that maybe just initially just baffled you or you were kind of shocked. I just think it'd be interesting for our listeners to hear something fun like that .
Dr. Stephen Duren (40:57):
It's got to topthe rodeo horse crashing into the beer garden?
Katy Starr (41:01):
Do you have a better story than that? ?
Dr. Stephen Duren (41:04):
That one's pretty good.
Katy Starr (41:05):
It is pretty good!
Dr. Jerry Billquist (41:07):
I have one that's better than that. I spent those 12 months over in Turkey and one day the interpreter that’s in the office where I was working in Izmir came over and said that the veterinarians at the culture park would like you to come and help them with an animal. And I thought, hmm, this sounds interesting. So we loaded up a vet bag and we went to the culture park with the interpreter and lo and behold the animal in question was a lion.
Katy Starr (41:37):
Oh my goodness. .
Dr. Jerry Billquist (41:39):
And this lion was not feeling very well. And so they wanted to sedate him and draw some blood out of him. And of course they had no drugs that would sedate him, which I did have drugs that would sedate the lion. It’s just, the same stuff we use on cats. We used combination of ketamine and a couple other drugs. And so they said, well we've got this, they showed me this pistol, it looked like a little CO2 pistol that they were going to shoot the lion with. And so I helped them mix up a dose, we approximated the weight of this lion and they packed it in their little gun and they went in and they shot it at the lion and it made, it just did it kind of a ark and landed on the floor. Didn't even get close to the lion. I'm thinking, oh god, this is going to be great.
Dr. Jerry Billquist (42:19):
So anyway, they had a steel door where the lion was backed up too with his butt. So they slid around outside with a syringe. We filled another syringe, they cracked that door and a guy reached underneath there and stuck that lion in the butt with the sedation. And he just stood up, looked like he was 12 feet tall and just, you know, about scared the bejeezus out of you and let out a roar. And then he laid down and went to sleep. Well then we had to pull him out of that cage and put him in another cage that was, it was already tied to the bars of his cage. It was quite interesting. They wanted the little guy who did the cleanup who weighed up about 130 pounds to pull this 300 pound lion out. So my technician and I went in and got the lion.
Dr. Jerry Billquist (42:57):
We pulled him out, put him in this big cage and these Turkish veterinarians were sitting there trying to draw blood out of his tail, kind of like you do with a cow. Because most of them over there were sheep or cattle type doctors. They didn't do much with exotic animals or anything, but and they were so frustrated they weren't having any blood. So I looked at my technician and said, okay, grab us a a penrose drain. It's a rubber stretchy thing, tubing. And we tied it around the lion's leg, pulled his front leg out through the bars and we stuck in there and I drew out two syringes full of blood in about 10 seconds and just flabbergasted these poor Turkish veterinarians. So they put it in the tube and we packed up our stuff and went on our merry way. I don't know whatever happened to the lion, but that was the most exotic thing I ever worked on was the lion.
Katy Starr (43:41):
Wow. That would be quite interesting. Did they tell you that it was a lion to start with or did you just show up and they're like, hey!
Dr. Jerry Billquist (43:48):
Well they just said they needed some help with an animal at the culture park and I had no idea what was there. So yeah, we just, like I said, we just grabbed a bag of different things that we had there in the, in the vet office and headed over there with the interpreter and they were so grateful that they came and brought me some Turkish labeled veterinary drugs to give to me as a gift. Because over there you, when you do something good for somebody, they always have to acknowledge it in their culture. So they, they came over and brought me some veterinary drugs, Turkish label, I don't know what they are. Couldn't translate them. And anyway, they were so proud of that, that they could give me that in exchange cause I gave them the bottle of ketamine that I had used on their lion because they kind of contaminated it with their needle and I didn't want to use it on my critters again. So yeah, they thought I was just wonderful.
Katy Starr (44:37):
Oh, that's a pretty incredible story. I mean so is the rodeo horse one for sure.
Dr. Jerry Billquist (44:43):
Life has never been dull in the veterinary profession.
Katy Starr (44:46):
Oh I don't imagine so. Especially with all the travels that you've done through that. That's pretty amazing. So Dr. B, what would you say is the most important thing that horses have taught you in your life so far?
Dr. Jerry Billquist (44:59):
You won't believe it, but it's patience.
Katy Starr (45:02):
Dr. Jerry Billquist (45:03):
Because as a young kind of upstart, kind of macho veterinarian, I thought I could out muscle and outdo any horse and I found out I got my butt kicked more than once trying to do that. So pretty soon I stood back and became more patient and watched my patients. And over the years I do a lot more watching than I do acting. And then I determined the course of action after I've kind of analyzed things. SoI've learned a great degree of patience over the years.
Katy Starr (45:34):
Mm-hmm , that's a good lesson. Horses are so great at teaching that.
Dr. Jerry Billquist (45:37):
And they'll teach you a little humility too.
Katy Starr (45:40):
Yes, absolutely. What do you feel like has been your proudest moment in life so far?
Dr. Jerry Billquist (45:46):
Oh, I've got a bunch of those. But probably the proudest thing is I've got two adults sons who have turned out to be excellent citizens. My oldest son is retired lieutenant colonel from the Army and he's raising our two grandsons who are both well-behaved. The one's a second year college student in pre-law and the younger one's gonna be a graduating senior this next month. And he's done well there. And my younger son is a free spirit and he lives in Missoula, Montana where he is a lighting director at a theater there and he's happy with his life. So I think I've accomplished something with both of those boys.
Katy Starr (46:24):
Hmm. Something very much to be proud of. And what would you say, and these are just some, you know, fun kind of get to know you questions a little bit outside of the vet stuff, but what is a bucket list item that you have yet to do in your life that you would like to do someday? I know you've done a lot of things.
Dr. Jerry Billquist (46:43):
I've actually got to do a couple of my bucket list things. My father's parents immigrated from Sweden in 1910 to Montana and about seven years ago my brother and I got to go to England where my son was in the military, my older son. And we went and got to go take a trip to Sweden to see where my grandparents came from. And I've always wanted to see Sweden to see where they came from and that was pretty cool. My other bucket list thing that I haven't got done is my high school buddy that has passed away. He and I always talked about going to Australia and I've yet to make it to Australia, but one of these days I'm going, I had faculty at CSU from Australia when I was a student that became good friends with and they've always said, oh just come down and see us, you know, come down and see us. Oh yeah. You know, it isn't like you can drive from San Antonio to Dallas, you know, that's not the same kind of deal going to Australia. You better plan for that cause that's a long haul.
Katy Starr (47:38):
Dr. Jerry Billquist (47:39):
Takes you 18 hours of flight time, let alone, you know, just a lag time to get used to getting there and then figure out where you want to be and where you want to go. But that's on my bucket list yet is to still get to Australia at some point.
Katy Starr (47:51):
That's awesome. I love that. Who do you feel like in your life has been your greatest inspiration?
Dr. Jerry Billquist (47:59):
This may sound corny, but my folks have been my inspiration, my mom was a schoolteacher so she insisted that we always did well in school. My younger brother is two years younger than I am, tried her patience to the utmost, I was always a good student. He was just getting by. He was there for the social aspect and for shop classes and he's done well. But he liked to drove my poor mother crazy and my dad was a great influence on both of us. He led by example, provided an outstanding example of what a good person should be. He was extremely well thought of in the community where he lived. And he gave back to the community in many, many ways. He served on the little local county fair board for 52 years and it was all volunteer situation. You know, he never got paid for that. He and my mom were inducted into the Montana 4-H Foundation's Hall of Fame before he passed away for all the years that they dedicated to the 4-H program. So that was pretty cool.
Katy Starr (48:59):
Aw, I love that. That's really great. And then if there was one thing that you could tell horse owners about working with their equine veterinarian, what would you want them to know?
Dr. Jerry Billquist (49:14):
Plan ahead and make arrangements. Have an established relationship with a good doctor that you're comfortable with so that when you need him at two o'clock in the morning, he's going to come and see you. And don't wait till two o'clock in the morning to start looking for somebody to come and help you because you may not find one. But the most important thing is to establish a relationship with your local veterinarian so that they know who you are and you know who they are. You know what to expect and they know what to expect. They know if you call and say, I've got a colic and I need you right away, that you're serious and you know what you're talking about. Versus, you know, they call up and say, well I think my horse got cut. Might need a couple stitches, you know, or only problem is he's standing there bleeding out of an artery.
Dr. Jerry Billquist (49:56):
You know, you need to kind of know the difference. But that's the most important thing is to be on the same page with your veterinarian and have a good line of communication. You know, feel like you can call him. If you find that you just don't communicate well, then you need to find a different veterinarian who, who will communicate with you. And there's lots of them out there. Now, if you're in some rural areas, you might be limited and realize that some of these guys who are 70 or 75 that are still practicing, might be running out of little steam and might not have a lot of patience. So just be patient with them and you know, these old guys have a work ethic that puts our young colleagues to shame, unfortunately. But they never seem to know the word quit and you'd watch them guys. And I work with one every Wednesday that's 75 and he's still going and blowing and he shows no signs of slowing down. It's a tough world out there and you got to be tough and you got to have some try and you've got to have some stay power. And that's what we see the lack of is grit and stay power.
Katy Starr (50:55):
Mm-hmm. , and I actually meant to ask this in the beginning because I obviously, I know that you two have a relationship and everything, but how did you guys first meet in the first place? Dr. Duren and Dr. Billquist, how did you guys become colleagues and friends and all of that?
Dr. Stephen Duren (51:17):
Well, I can remember it, Dr. Billquist was getting some forage from Standlee and we were going through what we thought was a really cool idea, a brand refresh, and we changed the packaging and all the bags were not staying sewed. And I met Dr. Billquist at an AAEP and he goes, “Hey, you look like you're a man that can get something done.” And he told me this story and, and I think that was our first encounter. And then, you know, then once I learned he was from Montana and obviously I live in Idaho, then we shared a lot of the same type of stories growing up. So that's how we initially met. And, and now our relationship is, I do a lot of continuing education courses for veterinarians and Dr. Billquist is, has a group there in Texas that they provide regular continuing education for veterinarians has been really good. So I volunteer and go down there and help him with those.
Dr. Jerry Billquist (52:12):
Yeah, we're looking forward to Steve coming down in April to do a presentation at Kerrville for us.
Katy Starr (52:18):
That's awesome. Well, and I also have to say how much I appreciate Dr. Billquist, you making sure that nutrition is an aspect that you include there in the training. I think nutrition and medical quite often play hand in hand. And so I think that's really great that you make it a note to include that whenever you do those.
Dr. Jerry Billquist (52:42):
Well, they do play hand in hand. And I'm down here in Texas where we have this stuff called coastal Bermuda grass that they feed horses and it's the worst stuff on earth, but it's all they have. And so unless they import stuff from New Mexico or California or somewhere, most horses are fed that, it just drives me crazy. And I don't feed any of that. I feed the cubed product from Standlee. I've always been a big cubed feeder after I got a started with it back in Montana and I just know I'm getting a better-quality forage than these guys are getting down here. My horses are pasture horses, so they're out and they come in and eat morning and evening. But you know, the nutrition that a lot of these horses get, that they expect to be athletes, just drives me crazy. I used to watch people from Idaho come up to Montana with their alfalfa hay that would just make a rabbit lover just go crazy.
Dr. Jerry Billquist (53:33):
That was kind of the chuckle. My friend here in Texas, we sent some hay down one time when he shipped the horse down to him, he said, wow, where did they get that rabbit quality alfalfa? He said "that was the best stuff on earth." I said, they raise it in that part of the world. But the quality of forage down here contributes to a lot of our issues with our horses. And I don't care how many times you fertilize it, you still get stemmy, coastal Bermuda grass. It causes lots of impactions, lots of just gas, lots of just issues with our horses and usually to straighten them out we've got to get them on some alfalfa and often I send them back to the local store to get some kind of cube product or even some New Mexico alfalfa bales if they have them, just to get these horses to move the feed through them. So, makes a big difference.
Katy Starr (54:20):
Yeah. Well, and we appreciate you and we're so glad that you like our products and use them for your own horses and everything. And Dr. Billquist, I feel like this has been a really interesting conversation with you today. You have had so many fun experiences, it's just been really incredible. How can our listeners stay connected with you after this episode?
Dr. Jerry Billquist (54:45):
Well that's a good question because I'm not a social butterfly. I don't do Facebook, I don't do Twitter, I don't tweet.
Katy Starr (54:52):
There's nothing wrong with that.
Dr. Jerry Billquist (54:54):
I don't do Pinterest. I don't even know how to work the, I'm lucky I can answer a phone call or text on my cell phone so. But they could always, if they got questions they'd like to ask me, I'd be happy to entertain them. They can send them to me at email@example.com. That's my email address. Be happy to entertain questions.
Katy Starr (55:16):
Excellent. I'll be sure to put that in the show notes too. So if you want to check that out, you can find his email contact there. Dr. Duren, anything else to add?
Dr. Stephen Duren (55:25):
No, I think it's been very interesting. I was really interested in the rodeo and the cavalry horses.
Katy Starr (55:30):
Yes. That's super fascinating. But anyway, well thank you Dr. Duren. Thank you for kind of being a guest host today. And Dr. B, thank you so much for being on the Beyond the Barn podcast. And to our listeners, I hope you all enjoyed today's conversation. And if you have any topic ideas that you would like to hear from us, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we are more than happy to hear from you, hear your feedback and everything. So thank you both for joining us today.
Dr. Jerry Billquist (56:03):
Thank you for having us.
Dr. Stephen Duren (56:04):
Yep. Thank you.
Katy Starr (56:06):
Thanks for listening to The Beyond the Barn podcast by Standlee Forage. We'd love for you to share our podcast with your favorite people and subscribe on Apple, Spotify, or your favorite listening platform. Until next time, keep your cinch tight and don't forget to turn off the water.