- Associated Press - Friday, April 14, 2017

PAYSON, Utah (AP) - ‘He’s good,” shouts Dr. Mike Walburger.

The bull he had just vaccinated and tagged is released from the squeeze chute and charges out into the corral, a farm dog chasing it towards the other bulls. Walburger readies himself for the next bull as it’s coaxed into the squeeze chute. He along with his assistant and two of the owners of the farm in Levan are there to help Walburger process approximately 30 bulls during the house call.

After about an hour and a close call with a wild bull, Walburger finishes up his work and heads back to his clinic in Payson, Utah. It’s just after noon, and he has been working since before the sun came up, and will work for several more hours.

“We don’t have a 9 to 5, we have a ‘from eyes open to eyes closed kind of a job,’” said Walburger with a laugh.

Walburger, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, is the chief physician at the Arrowhead Veterinary Clinic, just south of Payson. The clinic specializes in caring for large farm animals, primarily cows and horses, though it also occasionally services smaller animals.

Walburger and his assistants are able to care for animals at the clinic, or at the homes of their owners. The clinic serves large-animal owners in Utah County primarily from Provo southward, but house calls can take Walburger and his crew further away to neighboring Juab and Sanpete counties if the proper facilities are available.

Working with numerous farmers and ranchers in the rural areas of southern Utah County, Walburger and his staff have a close relationship with the farming community, especially the beef industry.

“I get a lot of satisfaction in knowing that these guys, I mean ultimately, these animals end up in our food source,” explained Walburger. “Growing up I had a hand in that, we raised beef, and these guys do the same. I guess I take a little pride in that I’m helping to provide a safe, wholesome food source for the American consumer, in kind of a stretch.”

While growing up on a farm around Mountain View in Alberta, Canada, it became readily apparent to Walburger that he wanted make working with animals his life’s work.

“I was a farm kid then, and that’s just what I wanted to do: I wanted to do large animals,” recalled Walburger. “Dogs and cats are great, I enjoy doing those as well, but I have a passion for large animals and the farmers.”

Upon graduating high school, Walburger attended Montana State University for his undergraduate degree and then continued on to Kansas State University to earn his veterinarian degree. After graduation, he practiced in Idaho for a year and then moved to Spanish Fork to a three-doctor clinic where he practiced for the next 17 years. Just recently, the practice splintered apart, and Walburger started his own practice: the Arrowhead Veterinary Clinic.

However, the current location of the clinic is temporary.

“Right now, we’re in the process of getting a new place built,” Walburger said. “The late Lewis Feild and his family has allowed us to be there. It’s just been awesome to work with that family and to be in that spot.”

The location features stalls to house horses, squeeze chutes and working facilities to hold and process cows, which allows the clinic to be able to handle the majority of issues that arise with large animals.

“There’s not very many of those in the county at all, so when the opportunity came to move there, well that was a great thing,” said Walburger.

Despite looking for a more permanent location, the clinic will look to stay in the Payson area. “We’ll stay right close here,” said Walburger. “The majority of our clientele is still there.”

For Walburger and his crew, there’s never a typical day at the office.

“There’s an unpredictability about it,” explained Walburger. “It’s not really the same thing every day, and that in of itself is refreshing, it allows you to not get too droned out.”

The clinic handles a plethora of large-animal issues such as colic and belly aches, physical injuries and lameness, regulatory procedures including vaccinations and tagging, birthing animals, and putting them down later in life if they cannot withstand their aliments.

The work they do depends on the season, and springtime is the busiest season.

“We make all of our money between February and May,” said Walburger.

Spring generally consists of lots of cow-related calls and regulatory procedures such as vaccinations and checking if bulls are fit to breed for another year.

Walburger and his assistants are constantly running from case to case, animal to animal. Through it all, Walburger does his best to keep things positive.

“We try not to get too wound up, and sometimes it’s hard,” he said. “We’ve just got to have a good time.”

Whether it be singing “Goodnight Sally” to a horse as he sedates it to work on its teeth, or breaking into “We’re off to see the wizard.” as he hops into his pickup to head south to vaccinate bulls, Walburger does his best to keep the often hectic atmosphere of his job light.

While he hustles from case to case, he has several helping hands to keep him on track.

“It’s really just a tribute to the staff and keeping everything organized,” Walburger said. “You see them bustling around and making sure that we go do the work, but then they keep working to organize the paperwork and keep everything done. The help that I have is just amazing.”

“If I’m not working, I’m playing with my own horses,” said Emmy Richardson, one of Walburger’s assistants. “I’m always around some sort of animal, but I spend most of my time at the clinic.”

Richardson has been working full-time at the clinic for the past three years and hopes to one day have her own cow farm. “I just learn what I can here and try to remember it,” she said.

Though recently cows have been the most frequently cared-for animals at the clinic, horses account for the majority of the clinic’s services.

“Just being a part of the horse industry and athletic-type animals is just fun,” said Walburger. “Being involved with the kids in the 4-H, and the FFA, giving little seminars, and being able to see my clients take our patient, their horse, and go win a competition - to have that be something we’re a part of and they allowed us to be a part of that, that’s pretty cool.”

Utah is a hotbed for equestrian talent, and working with horses allows the clinic to be a part of the equine industry. “We’ve been able to do work for the premier rodeo athletes that travel up and down I-15,” he said.

For a man who’s been around farms his whole life, Walburger summed up his job by saying, “It’s an extension of the lifestyle really. It’s just right.”


Information from: The Daily Herald, https://www.heraldextra.com

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