Siloam Springs Veterinary Clinic has grown to three locations with seven full-time veterinarians
The old saying that nothing is more constant than change holds true everywhere, including Northwest Arkansas and veterinary medicine.
In Northwest Arkansas, population is booming at the same time that agriculture is a huge industry. Both town and country farmers and generational farmers need more and ever-evolving care for their livestock.
“One of the best kept secrets in American is that the huge agricultural industry is continuing to grow while being more efficient all the time,” Dr. Richard McCarver, one of the current owners of the Siloam Springs Veterinary Clinic, said. “It provides more food for more people using less resources. Further, growth additives are used less and less as producers seek to meet current consumer demands for more natural foods. Farmers need to make money and to do so must and meet consumer demands. We proactively try to help them meet those needs.”
The Siloam Springs Veterinary Clinic opened in the 1950s with Dr. Louis Stratton, who set patterns still in use today. Those patterns include a mixed practice of small and large animals, the tradition of visiting farmers on their farms as needed, and the practice of providing surgical, medical, dental and preventative care.
In 1965, Dr. Stratton switched to a four-decade long educational career at the Veterinary College of Oklahoma State University. Logically, he sold the clinic to Dr. Dwain Thomas, who hired Tim Woody as an additional veterinarian that in the early 1970s followed by Kenneth Leach in the late 70s. The current owners are Dr. Richard McCarver and Dr. Brian Shackleford. Both were Siloam veterinarians with Dr. McCarver beginning a gradual buyout in 1998 and joined by Dr. Shackelford in 2003. The clinic now has seven full-time veterinarians and three part-time. Demonstrating the passion and commitment these people have is the fact that the three part-time veterinarians are the previous owners, Dr. Thomas, Dr. Woody and Dr. Kenneth who still work two to two days a week.
While the original structure remains, it is undergone three major renovations and the addition of a second-story in the mid-1990s. The second story houses offices, a conference room, a pharmacy room and space for interns including bedroom facilities. Other facility changes have been additional kennels and stalls for animals who need to remain under veterinary care as well as a hydraulic tilt chute. Even with all of these additions, demand became greater than their capacity to fill. The traveling vets were making more and more calls to farmers in the southwest corner of Missouri after a clinic in the area closed.
Doctors McCarver and Shackelford bought that facility in the town of Southwest, Mo., and have an ever-increasing demand for their services. In addition, the facility in Siloam Springs became insufficient to handle all of the small animal business so that another separate clinic catering only to small animals was developed.
“This new satellite location is important in order to meet client psychological needs as well as veterinary needs,” Dr. McCarver explained.
According to Dr. McCarver, dogs and cats and other pocket animals have become members of families rather than pets, a substantial change from 25 years ago. Some urban clients are uncomfortable being in a facility where they can hear calves bawling or horses neighing while some generational farmers want a place they can bring their dogs, as well as other animals and feel most comfortable with familiar farm sounds.
At the large animal facility in Siloam Springs, two doctors are always dedicated to large animal services, one within the clinic and one traveling to farms. A typical traveling day might include a horse with an eye injury, another horse that is lame, a cow with a magnesium deficiency and a calf with pneumonia.
A growing segment of the clientele are people who hold town jobs and have smaller livestock operations on the side, perhaps recapturing youthful memories on their grandparents’ farms. Many of these smaller producers need advice as much as treatment. Such advice may include options for fly control in their specific situation. The clinic, therefore, carries a wide variety of medicines with a deep inventory whether they themselves perform the services or the producers do so to save money. Dr. McCarver further described every day as a mystery with unexpected demands. The result is that buying in volume, such as $30,000 for vaccines and Coggin tests for horses, allows them to take advantage of best price discounts which they can then pass on.
The Siloam Springs Veterinary Clinic is a USDA approved Coggin’s lab with another outreach being equine clinics, which often run on Saturdays with the first one this year taking place at the end of February. A standard practice is to go to riding clubs in order to service their horses for vaccines and/or Coggins tests whether for spring trail rides or rodeoing.
“We are growing at a steady 5 to 10 percent per year which reflects population growth and increasing rural needs,” Dr. McCarver said. “Our job is to adapt to our customers needs and to keep up to date with all of the latest advances. One advantage in having interns is that we have an opportunity to see some future large animal veterinarians up close and perhaps include them in our growing practice.”