Dr. Dave Sjeklocha
Cattle Empire, LLC
Dr. Dave Sjeklocha, operations manager of animal health and welfare for Cattle Empire, LLC near Satanta, Kansas, feels optimistic about the current direction of the veterinary profession.
The driving force for Sjeklocha to pursue a career in veterinary medicine was his interest in the food process, food safety and Beef Quality Assurance (BQA). After completing one year in secondary education, Sjeklocha worked at a feedlot near Appleton City, Missouri, riding pens and treating cattle from 1983-87. It was during this time the BQA program was really starting to take hold.
“I started looking at what was considered the norm in feedlots at that time and how that could affect our food,” he said. “It made me think we, as an industry, could do better.”
With this realization, Sjeklocha started back to school at Kansas State University. He graduated from the College of Veterinary Medicine at K-State in 1994 and has practiced in both Nebraska and Kansas at mixed animal practices with a focus on feedyard consulting. When Cattle Empire decided it could utilize a full-time staff veterinarian, Sjeklocha left mixed practice in July 2011 to join its team.
“Cattle Empire has been a good fit for me,” he said. “They are very passionate about the same things I am.”
In addition to his role at Cattle Empire, Sjeklocha has taken on leadership roles in professional organizations related to the industry. He has served as president of the Academy of Veterinary Consultants and also served as the chairperson for several years of the beef cattle health and well-being committee for that organization. He currently serves as chairperson on the American Association of Bovine Practitioners animal welfare committee and also on the advisory board for Progressive Beef Marketing Group. He also gives multiple presentations throughout the year, from veterinary continuing education to the local elementary school.
One of the biggest changes he has noticed is the awareness of animal welfare issues in practice. And this is where he feels veterinary medicine has some excellent opportunities.
“For veterinarians, we’re just getting into a time where we can really shine,” he said. “We can really step up and help our clients be more responsible and be progressive on animal welfare. As a profession, we need to grab a hold and help carry that ball.”
Even though Sjeklocha knows he is fortunate to have chosen this profession, he’s aware it faces some challenges as well. This includes the large debt load students in veterinary medicine are facing upon graduation. With that in mind, he encourages individuals to pursue anything they are passionate about, but to maintain realistic expectations.
“There are concerns I have when you’re paying off a huge debt. Sometimes principles are compromised and that’s dangerous,” he said. “Establish your principles and do your level best to try and live by them.”
Although the profession has had its challenges, Sjeklocha wishes all veterinarians would be able to experience the career satisfaction he has.
“I have been fortunate to work my entire career in something that I’m passionate about,” he said. “It’s an industry that I love. I love working with the animals; I love working with the people. It’s very rewarding.”