Mobile veterinarian Melissa Masters will care for animals at 2017 Black Hills Stock Show
She’s ready to take on the Black Hills Stock Show’s wildest animals. And the cattle and horses they are hauling, too.
Dr. Melissa Masters is the official veterinarian for the stock show and the rodeo.
Hundreds of animals, from horses to cattle, dogs, and even petting zoo animals will be on hand for the Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo Rapid City.
And their health care will be left to Masters.
She is the person animal owners will turn to, if their animals get sick or injured, and she is also on hand to lend an expert eye to prevent sickness.
This will be the first year for the Caputa, S.D., vet to hold the job. She is on call 24/7, for anything the animals may need while they are in Rapid City.
Before a horse can be given a stall, its owner must have a health certificate. Cutting horses and ranch horses, plus rodeo horses will arrive, and if the owner has forgotten or misplaced the certificate (or never got it), Dr. Masters can write one.
She examines sale horses, does lameness exams, and writes health certificates for animals that are sold. For the equine and bovine species, much of her work is preventive: making sure animals aren’t sick. Respiratory illnesses are highly contagious and can spread quickly in the barns, and part of her job is preventing them.
Her job duties also help with public perception. As the public, many of them urban dwellers who haven’t been around livestock, walk through the barns and petting zoo, perception is more important than ever. She walks through those areas, making sure husbandry needs are met, animals are healthy, and quarters are clean. “It’s good for the public’s perspective. You want to make sure nothing looks sick so it doesn’t start controversy.”
Masters is new to the Rapid City area. A 2013 graduate of Mississippi State University, she grew up in Virginia and Mississippi. After high school, she worked on ranches and feedyards across the area, including in Ainsworth, Neb., and California. At the feedyard in Ainsworth, the cowboys often did their own vet work, including c-sections, due to the lack of vets in the area.
While in California, the grandmother of one of her co-workers talked her into going to veterinary school. “She thought I had an affinity for it,” Masters said.
She learned to ride while in high school, but being a vet wasn’t her first choice of careers. After working at a clinic, she changed her mind. “I really liked it,” she remembers, “and thought it was interesting.”
After graduating with her doctorate of veterinary medicine, Masters spent a year in Mississippi working for an order buyer and backgrounder who also had a cow-calf operation. Then she was at a mixed animal vet clinic in Stockton, Kansas for a year, then worked in Deer Lodge, Montana before coming to Rapid City in March of last year. She prefers the large animal side of the business, especially cattle work.
She has started her own business in Rapid City – Masters Veterinary Service. Her practice is a large animal mobile service, and she’s working on finding a place to put a facility. She’s been busy with the mobile unit, and also works nights on call in a veterinarian emergency room.
She chose a good place to set up shop. “I’ve been picking up work pretty quickly. There are a lot of people that need vets to come out and do food animal work, and there aren’t a lot of people who offer the service in the area. I hope I can develop a large clientele and be there when they need me.”
She also likes snow. Masters got plenty of it while in Montana last year, and used to snowboard a lot before work demanded more of her time. She loves South Dakota, but “I wish it snowed more,” she said.
Masters worked the Central States Fair in August of last year and enjoyed meeting all the people. “I got to meet a lot of people, and got to know the area. Everybody there was great to work with.”
Even though she prefers cattle and horses, she’s worked on a variety of animals. She saw several deer and buffalo at the practice she worked at in Kansas, and at last year’s Central States Fair, she wrote a health certificate for a tiger that was part of a traveling exhibit. She likes working on anything: goats, alpacas, even that bobcat with the ear infection she checked out when she was in Montana. “It keeps it interesting.”
She is excited about all of the events at the Stock Show and Rodeo Rapid City, but especially for the working ranch horse competitions. “I like cowhorse work. That’s what I’ve been around the most, show-wise and practice-wise. I like cow horses, and their relationship with their rider, the aptitude they have for it, and their athleticism. I think it’s pretty neat.”
Her days at the Stock Show and Rodeo Rapid City will be full, but she’s looking forward to it. “I’ve heard a lot about (the Stock Show), and everybody says how much fun it is. I’m hoping to meet people, and recognize my clients and see their animals. I’m excited about the whole thing.”
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