Virginia farmers and livestock depend on Dr. Dee Whittier’s frequent field calls
By Liz Crumbley
To farmers across Virginia – and especially to those in the New River Valley – Dr. Dee Whittier is a familiar and valued consultant and friend.
Soon after Dr. Whittier joined the faculty of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine (VMRCVM) at Virginia Tech in 1980, he helped found the college’s clinical outreach program, which is aimed at preventing diseases among beef cattle and other large animal herds and flocks. Through the continuing research and hard work of Whittier and his colleagues in VMRCVM’s Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, the Food Animal Field Services program has grown to provide care for more than 40,000 animals annually.
As a professor, bovine specialist, and a pioneer in VMRCVM’s Production Management Medicine program, Whittier is a respected teacher and has been instrumental in developing his department’s curriculum. He’s also an active researcher in the areas of bovine internal parasitology, bovine reproduction, and beef cattle marketing and disease.
But it’s the countless hours he spends helping farmers -- as a field services clinician and as the Virginia Cooperative Extension Specialist for beef cattle -- that have established his far-reaching reputation as the “go-to” expert on food animal health and productivity.
When Virginia’s farmers need help with large animal disease or reproduction, they call on Dr. Whittier, who performs services ranging from testing young bulls for sexual maturity to testing herds for diseases and treating infected animals.
“Dr. Whittier has a unique ability to take complex issues and concepts related to veterinary medicine and present them in a way that beef producers and industry professionals can understand and apply,” says Scott Greiner, an associate professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences and an extension beef and sheep specialist.
“Dee provides technical background to assist in the understanding of important practices, putting both the ‘why’ and ‘how’ in an applicable context. He does this with a very enjoyable and engaging style,” says Greiner, who collaborates extensively with Whittier on beef cattle extension programs. “Dr. Whittier's impact on the beef cattle industry -- particularly related to improved health and reproductive management -- has been noteworthy.”
The Food Animal Field Services program Dr. Whittier initiated and continues to work with provides on-site medical care and preventative therapy at farms within a 35-mile radius of Blacksburg, as well as consultation with veterinarians at farms in other parts of Virginia and Maryland. Trucks carrying medical supplies constitute a mobile hospital, enabling the field services team to perform surgery and most other forms of medical and reproductive care. In addition to Whittier, the team today includes VMRCVM faculty Ondrej Becvar, John Currin, Kevin Pelzer, Hollie Schramm, and Terry Swecker.
Whittier also serves farmers on an international scale. For almost a decade, for example, he has spent time in the Dominican Republic, consulting with veterinarians and dairy farmers, testing for diseases, and developing methods of improving that nation’s dairy herd health and productivity.
Not all of his time outside of Virginia Tech is spent on farms. Whittier is frequent speaker at veterinary medicine and Virginia Cooperative Extension conferences and events. In 1986 he helped found the Virginia Academy of Food Animal Practitioners, an organization that promotes high quality food animal medicine and fosters continuing education and communications among veterinarians.
Dr. Whittier has received a number of honors over the years in recognition of his remarkable career and contributions, including Virginia Tech’s Excellence in Public Service Award, the Virginia Agribusiness Council’s Extension Service Award, the Virginia Association of Agricultural Extension Agents’ Distinguished Service Award, the National Association of County Agents’ Distinguished Service Award, and the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association’s Veterinary Service Award.
View a video featuring Dr. Dee Whittier:
Whittier encourages others to consider food animal veterinary medicine:
See a feature about the Food Animal Field Services program: