The Missouri Department of Agriculture welcomed Dr. Steve Strubberg as the State Veterinarian of Missouri this spring. Interim State Veterinarian Dr. Taylor Woods, who has served the Department for over 20 years, mentored Dr. Strubberg for several weeks before officially handing over the reins of the Animal Health Division.
Having practiced veterinary medicine for nearly 30 years, Dr. Strubberg told the Advertiser-Courier he views his current position as an extension of service, to participate in another realm of animal health.
“When you are State Veterinarian, you automatically become Director of the Animal Health Division within the Mo. Department of Agriculture,” he said.
It’s a big job says Director of Agriculture Chris Chinn.
“We are very excited to have Dr. Strubberg join our leadership team here at the Department,” said Director Chinn. “The Animal Health Division protects the health of all livestock in our state, which is a tremendous responsibility. His experience leading a team of large and small animal veterinarians will be influential to his new role throughout our state.”
The veterinarian is responsible for controlling, testing and eradicating livestock diseases in Missouri. This is accomplished through testing, vaccinations and regulatory programs that involve cattle, swine, horses, poultry, exotic animals, sheep, goats and small animals.
Dr. Strubberg says the state’s meat inspection unit is also within his department, so food safety is a day-by-day concern, monitored consistently.
He grew up in Union, Mo., with the intention of becoming a physician. Driven by his love for science, animals and the outdoors, he veered from people care to animal care. In 1989, Strubberg received his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from the University of Missouri with a focus area in beef reproduction. Following graduation, he assumed ownership of Hermann Veterinary Clinic, a mixed animal practice in Hermann, for nearly 30 years.
“It was wonderful to practice in one location for so long,” said Dr. Strubberg. “I had the opportunity to work with several farmers and ranchers and, eventually, their children and grandchildren. After selling my practice two years ago, I was looking for a career that would still allow me to give back to the agriculture community. I am honored to be selected as State Veterinarian.”
If the duty of the State Veterinarian is to develop and implement animal health programs that improve and protect the health of Missouri’s livestock, what about wildlife disease challenges?
When asked about the current problem with chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Missouri’s whitetail deer herd, he said, “We work with elk and deer breeders, so we do help them monitor issues regarding CWD.”
Dr. Strubberg wants to highlight more education for Missouri’s residents concerning the challenges AHD tackles to continue to advance animal agriculture and keep it thriving within the state, while providing health and care for each individual animal,” he said. “I’d rather do more education and maybe not so much regulation. We want to help them follow the rules, preventing less disease in the state.”
He says some of these diseases, such as rabies, can be shared between animals and humans, so education can help people to understand concepts like transmission and prevention. Dr. Strubberg said vaccinations for animals have more benefits than concerns and this overlaps human health.
“Our state has a public health veterinarian that works with the Department of Health, so we communicate with him very closely,” said the State vet. “They let us know any time they diagnose an animal with rabies. So our vaccination program [for small animals] for rabies is a preventative measure and protects people.”
Another topic of interest to cattle producers will be more USDA regulation in the form of electronic identification tags that will track beef cattle from the farm to the feedlot.
“One of the few things I have discovered in the few months I’ve been working here is the value of that, because we trace animal movements a lot more than I realized,” he said. “Just having some sort of traceable identification is pretty important because there’s some tuberculosis that’s in our cattle population.”
He says it’s a great convenience for the producer because they can prove their livestock farm was not involved, should an infection arise in the general population.
He says AHD will probably not change much in the way of programs or procedures that are currently underway, but it will adapt to changes in the industry on an as needed basis.
Assisting Strubberg will be Dr. Jean Schmidt. She began her role as Assistant State Veterinarian and Deputy Director of the Animal Health Division on June 1, 2019. Dr. Schmidt started working for the Department in 2011 and has a background in ruminant and equine practice. She is also professionally trained in emergency management and disease outbreak investigation.
Additional reporting by USDA