Meet the Docs: Jake and Carolyn
The 21st century is an exciting time. We have new technologies to make our world better, and new ways of connecting with people and places that we would have never discovered before. Many people, perhaps even yourself, want to use these technologies to connect with the men and women who raise the food we eat.
That’s where we would like to lend a hand. We are Dr. Jake and Dr. Carolyn Geis, a couple of newlyweds involved in veterinary medicine and ranching. We want to show you the cows we care for and how cattlemen and women like us manage these cattle to maximize their well-being. We also want to illustrate how we care for the land in our possession to not only raise cattle, but better plants and wildlife. We would love to answer any questions you have about cattle as well!
To introduce ourselves, I, Jake, will take the lead. Above is a picture of me at the clinic. I am an associate veterinarian at Tyndall Veterinary Clinic in southeast South Dakota. It is a mixed animal practice where we treat everything from cats to camels. However, 70% of my work is with beef cattle. I loves my job and enjoy telling people about how fun and interesting being a vet can be. My feelings echo those of one of my heroes, Dr. James Herriot, the writer of the classic All Creatures Great and Small, who said, “I love writing about my job because I loved it, and it was a particularly interesting one. It was like holidays with pay to me.”
Being a veterinarian has given me the opportunity to work with all kinds of cattle producers, from small to large. I can unequivocally say that the people who work with cattle take their animal’s interests to heart. When a producer brings a sick calf to me, it’s not just an economic issue. They take pride in raising strong, healthy calves and enjoy seeing them thrive. My mission as a veterinarian is to help them reach that goal.
The Lord has given me so many blessings through my career as a veterinarian, and it would be a shame to not use my veterinary knowledge to help others make a better life for themselves. I’ve taken part in mission trips to various places to help people who have less financially with their animals. Above is a picture of me with another veterinarian in Nicaragua treating a cow that fractured her horn. I had a blast on that trip and on other trips helping people and educating them about animal husbandry.
I guess I’ll take over from here. I’m Carolyn Geis, a recent graduate of Iowa State College of Veterinary Medicine. I grew up on our small family farm in eastern South Dakota and was one of those kids that had to love every animal that walked onto the place, regardless if they wanted me to love them or not. And, believe me, skunks don’t want to be loved! As I grew I worked with my folks doing cattle chores and other work around the farm. This laid the foundation of my interest in agriculture, especially in animal medicine. But my mom could tell you that at the ripe old age of four I knew that’s what I wanted to become.
During my undergraduate years I participated in an internship with the South Dakota state veterinarian, where I worked with everything from processing health papers to testing for tuberculosis in elk. From this experience I realized just how much broader veterinarian medicine is than just practicing in a clinic. Little did I know at that time that I would be going back into the field of regulatory medicine! Now today I am an area veterinarian for the state of South Dakota, covering the southeast corner of the state.
In addition to being a cattle vets, we also raise cattle. They live on Jake’s parent’s ranch in northeast Nebraska, just down the Missouri river from the vet clinic sixty miles. The above picture is of two of our Red Angus cows on the ranch. It is a small operation of fifty-some cows; like the majority of cattle producers, we do not earn our entire income from cattle production. However, we are proud to be the sixth generation in our family to have livestock on the place since it was homesteaded in the 1880s.
Jake’s parents, Ron and Cindy, live on the ranch. They do chores and check the cattle daily. As you can see from the picture of our awesome ’89 F-150 named “Casper”, they don’t have the fanciest equipment, but it gets the job done.
Carolyn’s folks, Jim and Brenda, also farm and ranch. They live in eastern South Dakota and raise corn, corgis, and cattle. They are a tight knit team and work together in every aspect, from calving season to harvest to the cold, cold cattle chores of winter. As Brenda says, Jim is her number one farmer and she is his Farmhand of the Year, every year.
We have learned a lot from our folks through the years. They brought us up to be good stewards of the land and our livestock. They also instilled in us a desire to continually improve our management practices. Agriculture is not a static business; our parents have taught us that as technology improves we need to take advantage of these advances to do better for our cattle and our natural resources.
Our desire to embrace these new technological resources is from our concern for the land. The land we graze our cattle on is not just property to us; every inch of it is home. It was where we learned to ride a horse, where we first went hunting and even where we got engaged. Therefore, it is very important to us that we care for the land so it can be passed on to future generations in the condition it was passed on to us. That means we look after not only the cattle, but they grass they eat, the trees they rest under, and the wildlife they share the land with. New advances technology and better management practices allow us to achieve this goal.
We use different practices to keep the land healthy. This includes rotational grazing, where we only allow the cattle to graze a pasture for a certain period of time, then remove them from that pasture to give the grass a chance to rest. We remove invasive plant species, such as musk thistle and leafy spurge, by both mechanical and chemical means. There are many other practices we utilize to keep our cattle well fed and promote native vegetation.
Cattle grazing can also be a perfect complement for maintaining wildlife habitat, like the deer that went right by our house in the picture above. We have worked to provide cover and food resources that have allowed species such as whitetail deer, ringneck pheasant, and Merriman turkey to thrive. The stream that runs through our pasture is clean for healthy populations of creek chub, a small fish. We even are visited by bald eagles and red-tailed hawks on a frequent basis.
Being part of the cattle business is like being part of a big family. From the clients we serve at the vet clinic to our parents on the farm, we work together to keep the cattle under our care healthy and comfortable. It is our mission that the cattle we raise live good lives and provide you with the finest beef in the world. If you want to hear more about the world of beef, look up our next blog post or shoot us an email with your question.
Jake and Carolyn, the Cow Docs