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North Dakota Ag Commissioner Appoints Andress State Veterinarian

By Ruth Wiechmann for Tri-State Livestock News

Dr. Ethan Andress of Lodgepole, South Dakota, has been appointed as the state veterinarian and the animal health division director at the North Dakota Department of Agriculture (NDDA). Andress has been an owner and partner of West River Veterinary Clinic in Hettinger, ND and served the surrounding area as a mixed animal practitioner for twenty-one years. Dr. Andress is a past president and a current member of the South Dakota Veterinary Medical Association, a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, a member of the North Dakota Veterinary Medical Association, and a member of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners.

“We are pleased to have Dr. Andress join the department and lead our state in the effort to prevent, manage and control contagious animal health diseases,” Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said in a June 23 press release. “Dr. Andress brings valuable experience in the field of veterinary medicine and extensive knowledge of bovine, equine and bison medicine. His business background will also be an asset to our animal health programs and the state.”

Andress grew up near Lodgepole after his father, an entomologist, came to the area for a summer job handling bees and decided to purchase the honey business from his boss. Andress didn’t get very involved with the bees as a child because he was highly allergic to beestings, but he did like animals and enjoyed helping extended family and neighbors working with their livestock. He attended Lodgepole School, a one room country school, through eighth grade, and graduated from Hettinger High School.



Andress grew into his decision to become a veterinarian.

“I knew I loved animals and people and wanted to live in a rural area,” Andress said. “When I transferred to Hettinger from country school, I wrestled with Mike Berg, whose father, Burt Berg was a veterinarian. One of the assistant wrestling coaches was Dr. Don Safratowich. He always came to practice late—vets are always late—and he was very tough and physical. Those two men indirectly proved to me that you can be a successful vet, a part of your community, raise your kids and be part of their lives. In college, I loved biology, so becoming a veterinarian seemed like a logical choice.”



Andress graduated with a Biology major from South Dakota State University and married his high school sweetheart, Denise Dschaak. After completing his DVM at Iowa State, he got a job working with Dr. Bill Baus at Redfield, South Dakota.

“Dr. Baus was one of my mentors,” Andress said. “He ran a mixed animal practice and was very shrewd about the business side of it. He was always sharing the numbers with me. My dad was also one of my mentors. He was a very sound business person and shared his philosophies on how to, or not to, make a business work.”

Ethan and Denise returned to the Hettinger area with their two young children, Cassie and Alec, in June, 2000. Dr. Berg was ready to retire and Dr. Safratowich was ready for some new energy in the practice.

“We made sure that we had a sound business structure for the clinic,” Andress said. “We focused on strong customer service, technology, and made sure that we were available for our customers.”

West River Veterinary Clinic has grown over the years, adding several full time veterinarians, outgrowing their old facility and building a new clinic. Through the years of long days, late nights, two a.m. OB calls, and strenuous effort through heat and cold, Andress says that it is his customers that have kept him enthusiastic about his work.

“My passion for my job comes from working every day with my friends,” he said. “We know each other. I know their kids; I know their stories. We have a lot in common. I know that my success depends on their success. I help ranchers feed the world.”

Dr. Andress’ new responsibilities will look a little bit different than his usual large animal care routines but he is excited to step into his new role.

“There are several different things I’ll be overseeing,” he said. “Our office keeps track of the movement of cattle and other livestock in and out of North Dakota. This includes elk, goats, even zoo animals; we make sure they all have the proper testing in place prior to shipping. We oversee animal ID programs in the state. We do a lot of education and outreach, sending out notices to veterinarians across the state with up to date information on various diseases.

“Disease control is another aspect of my job. For instance, if tuberculosis or anthrax or another highly infectious disease shows up we will go out and test herds to determine the source. The state often gets involved in humane complaints, following the local sheriff and veterinarian. The state vet also does all the inspections at the ND State Fair. It’s going to be a huge learning curve for me.”

“Dr. Andress’ longtime experience working in the field with producers will be an asset in the role of state veterinarian,” Dr. Gerald Kitto, president of the State Board of Animal Health said in the official press release.

Dr. Andress is following Dr. Susan Keller who has worked in the office since 1997 and has been the ND State Veterinarian since 2004.

Dr. Andress said he understands the financial strains of livestock producers and will take that into consideration when making decisions for the state of North Dakota. Photo by Reflections Studio

“I feel like a rookie quarterback coming in after Tom Brady,” Andress chuckled. “Dr. Keller has been there for a long time and has done a great job. The current office has a great reputation and an experienced and talented team. I want to grow on that. The office runs smoothly and is respected. It’s my job not to screw that up! ND Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring and his team bring a lot of enthusiasm and energy to the department as well.”

Andress is the third veterinarian from Hettinger, following Dr. Robert Velure and Dr. Charles Uecker, to step into the State Veterinarian job. He brings a unique perspective to the office.

“I’ve spent a long time working with ranchers in two states and I understand things from the producers’ side of things,” he said. “Our government has to understand what people are facing on a daily basis. I know the work and cost that goes into the ideas that get put forth on the regulatory side, and I understand ranchers’ limitations and financial picture. We have the best and safest food supply in the world and we have an obligation to the industry to keep disease out. But I also have a strong belief in limited government; my job is to balance government regulations and intervention for the safety of the food supply while making sure that government stays limited to its role does not limit the growth of business.”

Andress will be missed by his clients but he is confident that West River Veterinary Clinic has a strong future serving his hometown and the surrounding area.

“The secret to our success has been surrounding ourselves with talented, hard working veterinarians and staff,” he said. “We have a great team. Owners Dr. Lisa Henderson, Dr. Bleaux Johnson and Dr. Jenna Innes are continuing on with the leadership role and they are ready to take the clinic into the future.”

As for his future in the state veterinarian’s office, Andress is looking forward to continuing to serve North Dakota ranchers and the livestock industry.

“We are here to support and educate producers,” he said. We will help take care of problems that may arise and constructively help people follow the law for the safety of our food supply. We need to have safety without restricting business and take care of the livestock industry as partners. I have a lot of talented people helping with this and I am excited to work with North Dakota’s Department of Agriculture and continue to serve our livestock producers in this position.”

Dr. Andress preg tested more than a handful of cows during his tenure with West River Veterinary Clinic. Photo by Carrie Stadheim

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