Editor's Note: The print version of the story incorrectly stated that Dr. Randall Spare won the AABP Bovine Practitioner of the Year Award. He was awarded for the 2014 AABP Excellence in Preventive Veterinary Medicine in Beef. The correction is reflected in the above photo.
A commitment to service has helped grow Randall Spare’s veterinary practice in Southwest Kansas as he aims to keep his cattle producing clients profitable.
Having an understanding of what makes producers money is important for veterinarians, Spare says. “We understand that we need to be an investment, not a cost.”
Discussions on feedyard closeouts or how calves are weaning are common discussions with producers. He’s been able to develop those conversations after working 28 years at the same Ashland Veterinary Center Inc. (AVC) he established in Ashland, Kan.
“Once you’ve been at a place for a while, people give you the I’M A DROVER opportunity to ask questions,” Spare says. Th is offers a chance to give advice and guidance on areas of the beef business that could be improved.
Nearly 85% of AVC’s bovine work is cow-calf related, with a few stocker operations, backgrounders and feedlots thrown in. However, through the years more of Spare’s clients have retained ownership on their calves, making their breeding and weaning decisions even more important.
Growing up the youngest of eight children on a dairy in Central Kansas, Spare always knew he wanted to work in animal agriculture.
“One thing that I underestimated is how much I really enjoyed the people that came along with animal agriculture. I’ve grown to appreciate and hold in highest esteem those people who make a living from taking good care of cattle,” Spare says.
Spare graduated from veterinary school at Kansas State University in 1986, and in his second job out of college started practicing under Rodney Oliphant, who he describes as an icon among bovine practitioners. After working with a Cattle Production Veterinarian Hall of Fame inductee for several years, Spare branched out on his own in 1990, after purchasing a practice in Ashland.
In the beginning there were few options for veterinary care in the area with Spare being the only DVM in Clark County or neighboring Comanche County for six years. Through the years he would expand AVC to involve more veterinarians. Today, there are four vets on staff and a part time vet.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think we would grow into the type of practice that we have today,” Spare says.
He and three veterinarians in the clinic not only service their immediate area but also have clients in 13 surrounding Kansas counties, five counties in neighboring Oklahoma and two counties in the Texas Panhandle.
For his dedication Randall Spare has won a number of awards including the 2017 Service to Industry Award at the Applied Reproductive Strategies in Beef Cattle Symposium.
Spare attributes the growth to focusing on taking care of one client at a time and offering the services they needed. “I’ve always been willing to give things a try to serve others,” he adds.
This includes offering nutrition advice to cattle producers who often don’t have access to a nutritionist.
Contributing to the advice that Spare shares is his own experience running commercial Angus cows and developing replacement heifers.
“I learn by doing. Having a cowherd helps me with my day job. I understand the value of testing hay and formulating a ration,” Spare says.
Having walked a mile in a producer’s boots helps with those conversations on breeding programs or developing science like genomic testing, too.
“I want my clients, every one of them, whether they have 50 cows or 2,000 cows to succeed,” he adds.
An event that proved to show Spare and his clinic’s dedication to service was the Starbuck wildfire of March 2017 that burned 461,000 acres in Clark County alone.
Spare describes the wildfire as a monumental moment in his life and for the community. At the same time he gained a great appreciation for the relationships built overtime with cattle producers in the area.
“We as veterinarians have a tremendous opportunity to serve in the midst of tragedy,” Spare says. “Because we served every day we had the trust of those clients. Some that we did more work for and some we did less, but because of those relationships we were able to come alongside them during that very tumultuous period.”
Randall Spare works with beef cattle producers across every segment of the industry and has clients in Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma.
Another way that Spare is serving cattle producers is through his commitment to mentor and develop the next generation of veterinarians. AVC offers an internship program for veterinary and animal science students.
With fewer veterinary students coming from rural backgrounds, Spare understands how important it is to provide them with exposure to working in areas like southwest Kansas. Pre-vet students from across the country have the opportunity to live in an apartment at the clinic for up to a year.
“We as veterinarians need to be responsible for encouraging youngsters to consider our profession,” Spare believes. This also means that the next generation needs to see current veterinarians enjoying their work and the satisfaction it brings. “Seeing our clients succeed is the ultimate fulfillment.”
Through all of Spare’s service endeavors he has managed to keep his family life at the forefront, making sure he could eat at least one meal per day with his kids, attend ball games and have his family work alongside him. His son, Mark, appears to be headed toward the same life of service as he finishes up his veterinary studies at K-State.
“I certainly couldn’t do these things without the support of my wife and my family,” Spare adds.