The American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP) named Schenkels the Bovine Practitioner of the Year, with the award presented during the association’s annual conference Sept. 17 in Charlotte, North Carolina. He works with Fundy Veterinarians, out of the Shubenacadie office.
“It was a big surprise,” he said. “They kept it very quiet.”
Schenkels grew up on a dairy farm near Miramichi, N.B. He wanted to work with dairy cattle and his parents encouraged him to attend university so he applied to Ontario Veterinary College.
After graduation in 1986, he worked briefly in Ontario but took the position with Fundy Vets in 1987. About 95 per cent of his work involves cattle, with horses, goats, sheep and animals at the wildlife park accounting for the rest.
He has noticed several improvements during his years in practice.
“Management has really evolved so we don’t see as much disease as 30 years ago,” he said. “The diseases are still the same but we have new products for treating them. We do a lot of work at herd level, making sure the environment and nutrition is well looked after to ensure a healthy cow.
“I enjoy working with farmers; seeing changes and improvements being made on farms resulting in better lives for the cows and farmers.”
He said what he finds most difficult is the lack of appreciation some people have for what it takes to produce high quality food “in an environmental and animal acceptable manner.”
He spends much of his time on the road, visiting farms in Colchester, Cumberland, and Pictou counties, and East Hants and Halifax Regional municipalities.
One of his most memorable trips was driving through a snowstorm on Christmas Eve to deliver a calf by C-section.
“The most rewarding part was the live calf; the worst part was the drive home around 2 a.m.,” he recalled. ”You’re pumped up driving there but the drive from Noel back to Shubenacadie seemed long.”
Other things that stand out for him include participating in the dairy health management education program, sharing in planning a new dairy barn and seeing the cows and producer enjoy it, and assisting in starting a regional bovine vet association.
He finds his career very rewarding and his award makes him feel appreciated.
“It makes me appreciate how lucky I have been to have had the opportunity to do the things I have,” he said. “I have been very fortunate to have the support of my family, my staff at work, associate vets and partners, dairy industry people, many bovine veterinarians throughout North America and dairy producers. I have been lucky to be healthy, as the job requires some physical attributes.”
Schenkels lives in Fort Ellis with his wife Luanne, sons Aiden and Jared, and daughter Marika. They have no cattle at home.
“Farmers give me the opportunity to work with a lot of dairy cattle,” he said. “I like dairy cows but don’t want to be with them all the time.”