Rural Practitioner

Dr. Richard Heersche
Wellington Animal Clinic
Wellington, Kansas

by Audrey Hambright

Dr. Richard Heersche discovered the path to become a rural practitioner is often unchartered. After 42 years in practice with the Wellington Animal Clinic, he couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

Dr. Richard Heersche

Dr. Richard Heersche joins his family in celebrating his father-in-law’s 103rd birthday celebration.

Raised along with five brothers on a registered Holstein Farm near Mulvane, Kansas, Heersche naturally developed a passion for animals and agriculture, which led him to pursue a general agriculture degree at Kansas State University. He began working at the dairy unit, where he became acquainted with Dr. Russell Frey, the veterinarian on-call. At the time Heersche had no intentions to further pursue a degree in veterinary medicine, but Frey soon had a different effect.

“I admired Dr. Frey,” he said. “He had a very common sense approach with cows and people and that appealed to me.

Frey persuaded Heersche to apply for veterinary school and, to Heersche’s surprise, he was accepted.

After graduating from the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1973, Heersche went to work for Dr. Earl Gatz near Pratt, Kansas, for nine months until he decided to start his own practice in 1974.

Heersche is the sole practitioner, owner and president of the mixed-animal practice located in Wellington, Kansas. He enjoys the freedom the occupation has given him to work both in and out of the office and with animals as well as the people who own them.

Through 42 years of practice, Heersche has witnessed a lot of changes, and most of those have been for the better. He has spent a significant amount of time with livestock clients on genetics and reproductive efficiencies. To supplement those practices, Heersche encourages animal handling methods and proper withdrawal times taught with Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) training.

Dr. Heersche performs a c-section on a sow for one of his beef clients.

Dr. Heersche performs a c-section on a sow for one of his beef clients.

One of many fulfilling experiences involved a third generation water buffalo farmer who relocated with his wife to the United States about 20 years ago. Heersche, and a local FFA instructor helped build and develop their beef cattle herd.

“Working with him and improving his methods has been a joy to watch,” he said. “He’s also taught us a few things about working with cattle.”

Not only has Heersche been able to share his expertise with clients and work with animals, he also makes time for youth and local organizations.

“I’m proud to say I have helped teach quite a few students to preg-check cows who are now practicing,” he said. “I try to teach the way I was taught in school. My instructors had practiced and taught in the real world, so I tried to pattern a career similar to them.”

Dr. Heersche preg checks a set of heifers.

Dr. Heersche preg checks a set of heifers.

With all the experiences and relationships he has built, Heersche still gets a thrill from the day-to-day responsibilities of being a veterinarian. His advice for young or recent graduates of the profession is simple.

“Veterinary medicine is so diverse,” he said. “But you have to take the good with the bad. Every time I deliver a healthy baby calf, I’m just tickled to death.”

The fun part of it, he added, is creating something new and exciting.

“It’s a good way to make a living,” he said. “Not for the money, but to enjoy what you do for your life.”