A retiring veterinarian says "reality" would make a great policy for the United States.
By Jerry Engler from the Hillsboro Free Press
Norman "Doc" Galle and wife Connie began their veterinary practice at Hillsboro Animal Clinic 34 years ago.
It's been a good life for them, Galle said, one that has enabled him to pursue his constant curiosity for life-from flying airplanes to transplanting embryos in cattle.
But it's left him with trepidations, too. Regarding farm life and the country he loves, he foresees a day when the United States has to send troops to South America to protect its food interests just as it does now to the Middle East to protect oil interests.
If that scenario seems far-fetched at first, given the abundance of cheap food this nation has enjoyed, Galle said environmental regulations and trends are already in place that will send the country that direction. Reversing them might require effort.
As for the clinic itself, contrary to many rumors, it hasn't been sold. Galle said he probably would sell it if somebody came along with the money. But as for anticipating "full retirement," Galle would prefer to seize upon one of the Galles' other business interests. He and Connie have a honey-spread recipe they've begun producing commercially with the cooperation of Kansas State University.
It's a mix of honey, milk and cream. "It's a recipe we liked so much we started shipping it out," he said. "It's a totally different idea. We don't know of anything else like it that exists. We're having fun."
They also have their own beef cattle herd, and they bring in Wisconsin Holstein heifers to grow for the dairy industry.
They've also gotten involved in community development. They've enjoyed living the Hillsboro area-their home is only yards behind the clinic to the south-and being able to raise their children here.
Galle said he admires the beauty of Marion County and surrounding area, often flying over it in one of his planes to see the transitions from cropland to grassland.
"God's green earth-there's nothing like it, up there away from it all. It's relaxing. "It changes your perspective greatly when you see the world from up there, how miniscule we are here. It puts it all in perspective."
Having owned four airplanes during his life, he sometimes dreams of building a fifth one.
Getting started Galle said his appreciation of the earth was instrumental in his wanting to be a farmer as a young man. He liked animals, though, applied to veterinary school, and got in through the academic screening. In an era when some veterinarians gradually evolved either to large-animal or small-animal practice, Galle stayed with taking care of them all.
Connie earned income as a music teacher while Galle finished his veterinary medicine education at Kansas State University. After a couple of years working in another practice, he came to Hillsboro and started the practice they now run. The Galles raised four children here. He grew up at Moundridge, so he said it was the perfect distance for kids to know grandparents from.
One son, Aaron, died of leukemia at the age of 18. Daughter Karena, 32, and husband Kelly Thomas have three children. Daughter Michelle, 30, lives in Wichita, and is engaged to be married. Son Nathan, 28, and wife Kristen have an 8-month-old son at home in Manhattan.
If the veterinary practice were to sell, with all those grandchildren, Galle said he "might" slow down now and then to something resembling retirement. "Slow down" might be something new for him, as evidenced by the way his veterinary practice has always gone beyond the usual expectations.
Back in 1978, he watched an embryo transfer being done in cattle. "It looked challenging, but I decided I could do that," he said.After two weeks of observation at K-State, Galle did his own first embryo transplant of a Holstein for a dairy.
"There's something awesome about knowing you took that little embryo, and it grew to a calf," he said. For local farmers, Galle used his talents in animal reproduction to artificially inseminate small herds of animals where the operator otherwise might not be able to take advantage of advanced genetics.
He said he "synchronizes" cow herds, or uses hormonal treatment to bring cows into estrus, or heat, closely together for artificial insemination.
He's flown over Kansas, Nebraska and some of the surrounding area to do embryo transplants and other vet work at dairies. That aspect of his work has slowed to almost nothing as the persons with the wealth to pay for it have lost tax advantages for doing it, thanks to changes in law, he said.
When Galle first began his practice, he said, "There were a lot of good old farmers." He said farm people had family traditions and a respect for their heritage that was part of their occupation. Many of them knew what their grandparents had done on the same farms, he said, and that they respected their culture of farming. But he's seen farms and farming change a lot during his career.
Today's younger farmers have largely lost touch with the ties and culture that were important to the old-timers, he said. "They're money-driven, economics-driven," he said. "Back 32 years ago, 20 percent of the producers in Marion County had hogs. Now there's less than 1 percent who do.
"When I started, Marion County had 175 dairy herds in the Dairy Herd Improvement Association. There's 15 of them left. "The population has become more urban, even with that attitude when it's in small towns," he added.
"The kids don't know how to work. They've lost the ties of working side by side with their parents and grandparents."
Galle agrees with those who think Marion County's communities need to look to their agricultural heritage for economic and industrial development. He sees towns within the county searching for outside industries to sustain them when the natural logic for their existence in the first place was to support the agricultural community around them. Instead of giving up on agriculture and farming as a way of life, he said communities should look to value-added industries that would put more money into agricultural products, "just like our honey butter-it has milk and cream."
He suggested one of the better industries the county could try to recruit would be a moderate-sized-by modern standards-dairy farm of about 3,000 cows. There is a shortage of dairies in the country, he said, and even the heifers he grows are becoming more difficult to get.
The biggest thing the county lacks for such a dairy, he said, is sufficient water. Water is available at Marion Reservoir, for example, but a pipeline needs to be developed that would take the water to the dairy, probably through a rural water district.
Such a dairy would directly employ about 50 people, he said, and it would benefit smaller family farms in the county by giving them another outlet for selling grain and forages.
Galle said the economy of scale works in dairy perhaps better than most of agriculture, with fewer people needed per head of cattle; at peak, one person can handle 80 cows.
Galle said the United States needs to run its policies on reality instead of hysteria when it comes to environmental and health concerns. He smiled at concerns that cows pollute by producing too much methane gas, and winced at the "media hysteria" when it comes to coverage on avian flu. Galle said the nation allowed an entire animal by-products industry to be ruined by concerns over mad-cow disease.
He said the 150 persons whose deaths were suspected to have been linked to it worldwide may have involved other causes in some cases. Galle suggested the damage might have been more limited if the press had been required to use the full disease name of "bovine spongioform encephalopathy" instead of the more catchy "mad-cow disease."
Of course, Galle admitted, his outlook suffers from being able to look back. "The older I get, the better I was and the better it was." But the past can be a good teacher, he added.
He encouraged Kansans to promote what is good and natural from their past and surroundings for the future if they truly want to have a good future. ©Hillsboro Free Press 2007