Dr. Randall Norton
Walnut Fork Veterinary Service
By Audrey Hambright
Dr. Randall Norton, Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine alum, places high value on relationships with clients in his role as a rural practitioner.
A native of Ness County, Norton was raised on the family farm helping his grandfather and father raise wheat and cattle. It was this experience and his interest in science classes that led him to pursue a career in veterinary medicine. After high school, he attended Fort Hays State University before transferring to K-State to finish his pre-veterinary course work. Following graduation in 1989, Norton practiced in Albion, Nebraska, for a year before returning to the family farm. He opened a mobile veterinary practice while farming with his father before opening Walnut Fork Veterinary Service with his wife, Dr. Judy Norton, in 1995.
The practice, located in Utica, Kansas, serves clients in eight counties with approximately 70 percent food animal (cow-calf, stocker, feedlot, and small ruminants) and 30% small animal. In addition to the veterinary practice, they farm and run a beef cattle herd.
Serving a rural community has proved to be rewarding for Norton.
“The relationships I have built with my clients have been very satisfying,” he said. “I consider many of them close friends and I enjoy working with them to make their operations more profitable.”
Norton also noted the changes that have evolved in the industry. This includes the move towards more preventative health and production medicine in food animal in addition to the use of technologies such as ultrasound, digital radiography, and genomic testing.
The upcoming changes to the Veterinary Feed Directive will also have an impact on the profession that may prove challenging, yet Norton feels it could offer some new opportunities to develop relationships with those producers who are not currently being seen by a practitioner.
Along with developing client relationships, Norton has also had the chance to mentor and work with veterinary students. He served on the Kansas Board of Veterinary Examiners and the Admissions Committee for the College of Veterinary Medicine for 10 years. This allowed him to make connections with many of the students.
“We have had the pleasure of mentoring many impressive veterinary students in our practice and have enjoyed watching them progress in their careers,” he said.
Just as importantly, as students are making the decision to pursue a career as a veterinarian, he offers some wise advice:
“We advise students considering veterinary medicine to critically evaluate whether this is the right career for them, due to time commitments and financial obligations associated with training,” he said. “If so, make every attempt to expose themselves to all aspects of the profession so they can make the best decisions for their career choice.”
The Nortons have been recognized for their achievements in veterinary medicine. They were selected by the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine Alumni Association, to receive the 2016 Alumni Recognition Award presented during the annual Central Veterinary Conference held in Kansas City, Missouri, in August. In 2010, they were presented with the Kansas State University Beef Cattle Institute’s Beef Cattle Veterinarian of the Year award.
They have also made time to be involved in industry activities and organizations. Norton has served on the Kansas Veterinary Medical Loan Repayment Program task force since 2010 and was a national panel reviewer for the federal Veterinary Medical Loan Repayment Program from 2011-2013. Additionally, they are members of the Kansas Veterinary Medical Association, American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Bovine Practitioners, Academy of Veterinary Consultants and Society for Theriogenology.
According to Norton, the practice will undergo some changes in 2017. Dr. Curt Vogel, who has joined the staff at Walnut Fork in the last year will be purchasing the practice on January 1. The Nortons will continue to work in the practice.
“We (Judy and I) are pleased that he will not only maintain the services currently provided to our clientele, but expand in several areas due to his training and interests,” he said.
As a third-generation owner/manager of the family farming and cattle operation, the addition of Dr. Vogel will allow Norton to spend more time pursuing this endeavor.