Local vet pursues advanced degree at MSU | TSLN.com

Local vet pursues advanced degree at MSU

Melynda Harrison
MSU News Service

MSU photo by Kelly GorhamBob Sager, veterinarian and graduate student, in stands in front of Linfield Hall on the Montana State University campus.

BOZEMAN, MT – At the age of 61 Bob Sager is returning to school at Montana State University and fitting academics into an already busy life.

“I told John Paterson (now Sager’s adviser) that when I turn 62 and the tuition drops, I’ll start my master’s,” joked Sager. “I’ll probably be the only guy at MSU who uses his social security check for continuing education.”

It turns out that Sager will have to wait until he is 65 to have his registration fee and tuition waived (thats when the Board of Regents has determined Montana residents get a financial break), but he was anxious to get started. He is working on a master’s degree in animal science and nutrition with the hope of continuing on to a doctoral program.

“Bob is really driven,” said Paterson, an animal science professor and friend of Sager’s for 17 years. “He’ll probably be a really good role model for the younger graduate students.”

Sager is pursuing his advanced degrees at MSU in order to work with Paterson.

“I chose Dr. Paterson for his knowledge in micro-mineral nutrition and I believe I can learn more from him in my area of interest,” Sager said.

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A practicing veterinarian, Sager lives and works in Wilsall. About 90 percent of his practice is working with beef cattle.

“Even after 40 years of getting up in the middle of the night to pull calves and perform C-sections, I still have a passion for veterinary work,” Sager said.

Sager grew up on a cattle ranch near Manhattan where he developed an affinity for cows. He studied animal science and nutrition at MSU, graduating in 1970. He expects his experience will be a little different this time.

“The girls are better looking, the sidewalks are steeper and I’ve had to relearn how to ride a bike,” Sager said, laughing.

As an undergraduate Sager worked as a resident adviser in Culbertson Hall and recalls his friends rigging water balloons to fall on his head when he answered their knocks on the door. In 1966 he took 22 credits for $145 per semester and there weren’t any parking fees.

“We had to park in the mud, but at least we could park for free,” he recalled.

Sager credits his education at MSU for helping him through veterinary school at Colorado State University.

“I had a great education at MSU,” he said. “Even though I wasn’t a top student here, I competed really well in Colorado.”

After graduating from veterinary school, Sager worked at a few veterinary clinics before starting his own practice in Belgrade in 1977. He told local ranchers that he would stay in Belgrade until a McDonalds came to town – Sager’s personal indicator of when a town was too big. In 1995 McDonalds moved into Belgrade and Sager and his family moved out.

Sager was already making 150 trips a year to work on cows near Wilsall, so he decided to open a clinic there. He and his wife have seven children, ages 17 to 34. One of his sons is a sophomore at MSU studying exercise science and sports medicine.

“I have three kids in college right now and two of the three have four-point grade averages,” said Sager. “They’re putting a lot of pressure on me, so I really have to buckle down and study.”

Sager will have to fit his studies into an already packed life. In addition to running his business, Sage Trail Veterinary Clinic, Sager competes in the hammer throw. In October, he made it into the finals of two events at the World Masters Games in Australia. He finished seventh in the 12-pound hammer throw after competing in a rainstorm, and eighth (out of 18) in the weight throw. He also dresses as Santa Claus and visits rural schools; raises feeder pigs with his son for 4-H and FFA; runs his cattle ranch; and mentors veterinary students.

One reason Sager is returning to school is to honor his father. In 1921 Sager’s father learned that his own father had become sick and bed ridden. Sager’s father had just been admitted to veterinary school, but had to return home to run the family ranch without getting to pursue his dream. Even though Sager is already a veterinarian, he sees his further study is a tribute to his father’s unfulfilled dream.

At MSU, Sager will be focusing his studies on how micro-nutrition affects the immune system of cows. Specifically, he’ll be looking at whether cattle should be fed more cobalt, an essential element necessary for the formation of vitamin B12. Cows have increased in size by 400 pounds over the last 20 years, according to Paterson, but their intake of cobalt hasn’t changed. Sager questions whether an increase in cobalt might improve the cattle’s immunity and result in better milk.

“As a vet, some of my most challenging cases have been in the area of micro-nutrition and its effect in the immune system,” Sager said. “That’s what is driving me to go back to school and learn more.”

“Bob has always been inquisitive,” said Paterson. “He’s always going to school; he’s always trying to improve himself.”

this article can also be found at http://www.montana.edu/cpa/news/nwview.php?article=7715