The rural nature of Kent and Sussex counties and a return to backyard farming to feed the family is creating an increased need for veterinarians capable of handling larger animals and livestock, especially for sheep, goats and cattle.
This growing need is part of the reason that veterinarian Christina Dayton-Wall decided to return to her hometown of Lincoln after studying veterinary medicine at the University of Georgia.
Dayton-Wall is beginning a venture in farm animal veterinary practices, called All Creatures Veterinary Service, in which she will provide ambulatory services to Kent and Sussex counties while still working part time with smaller domestic animals at A Little Veterinary Clinic in Harrington.
“Here in Kent and Sussex counties we have a lot of cattle, goats and sheep and the need isn’t really met [for veterinary services],” Dayton-Wall said. “I wanted to share my knowledge at home.”
According to Valerie Jo Quillen, department chair for the Veterinary Technology Program at Delaware Technical Community College, Dayton-Wall won’t be pressed to find new clients.
Quillen said there are approximately four veterinarians in Sussex County capable of handling larger farm animals, and only about eight in Kent County, but those veterinarians spend most of their time addressing equine health issues.
So for those who own small ruminants, like goats or sheep, owners may be resorting to over-the-counter medications and self-treatment.
“There’s an extreme shortage here, very extreme,” Quillen said. “People who have sheep and goats, they can’t find vets, so they’re not sure where to take them, they’re doing stuff on their own they shouldn’t be doing.”
Dayton-Wall agreed, and hopes that by offering services in the area, people won’t have to take the risk of self-treating issues that really need professional medical attention.
“People are treating things on their own. They’re doing the best they can,” Dayton-Wall said. “By being here in the area, I’m hoping we can raise education so people can take better care of their animals. Sometimes people just need help with knowing when they need help.”
Both Dayton-Wall and Quillen said there is an increase in people returning to backyard farms to feed the family, but without proper veterinary care, they risk improperly using medication or the inability to detect serious diseases, which can then result in health hazards if they are using milk or meat from their farm animals.
“If you’re using an animal that is going to eventually wind up on the table for dinner, one of the biggest things is following the regulations that exist,” Quillen said. “If I give an animal a drug, an antibiotic for example, there is a period of time before that animal can go to slaughter. So milk and meat withholding times, that’s something we’ve got to train not only the vets about but the producers about, making sure they’re keeping regulation. That’s a big problem.”
Page 2 of 2 - Dayton-Wall will treat animals at their home location, and does not yet plan to open a facility. She said that treating the animals at the home farm is often the best setting, and Quillen agreed that most procedures are better done on site and also allows the veterinarian to see the animal’s environment.
“It doesn’t stress them out as much when they’re in a familiar environment,” Dayton-Wall said. “You always have to keep it in mind that it’s potentially dangerous when working with large animals and often emergencies are not at convenient times – nights, weekends, rain, snow – it adds a challenge to cover emergencies.”
Dayton-Wall will be available to treat everything from vaccinations to reproduction, diseases and nutrition, and even chiropractic care for horses and older dogs, and is ready to meet any challenge presented.
“Animals figure out different ways to hurt themselves, they get sick and can’t tell you what’s wrong,” Dayton-Wall said. “Every day is a challenge but I’m active and ready to go. At this point, bring it on, I’m ready.”
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org. For appointments, call (302) 258-8160.