Practice: Virginia Herd Health Management Services, PC is located in beautiful Madison County, VA, We have the honor of servicing clients in surrounding counties including Culpeper, Fauquier, Orange, Louisa, Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, and Rockingham. The practice consists of owner, Dr. Patrick Comyn and associate Dr. Amanda Weakley-Scott. Our practice focuses mainly on livestock (cattle, sheep/goats and swine), with an emphasis on reproduction and hoof health. We offer bovine and small ruminant embryo transfer and artificial insemination as well as a portable hoof trimming table.
Tell us about yourself. I was lucky enough to grow up in Madison County on a small beef farm. My love for agriculture began at an early age from helping Dad check the cows to riding with my grandfather on the fender of an international tractor and helping grandma pick greens in the garden. Having a passion for livestock I joined 4-H, showing swine and beef cattle, as well as competing on the stockman's and livestock judging teams and the cattle working team. I had a knack for trying to figure out why things worked and a love for science, so I figured that a career in livestock veterinary medicine would be a good fit. I went on to join FFA, serve as a VA FFA Association State Officer, and received my Bachelor's in Dairy Science and a Bachelor's in Animal and Poultry Sciences from Virginia Tech. During that time, I remained an "Agvocate" competing in the Forage Quiz bowl, and on the Collegiate Livestock Judging team. I was a member of Block N Bridle, an Ambassador for Animal Science and a sister in Sigma Alpha Agricultural Sorority. After graduating, I traveled across campus to complete my Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. While in vet school, I had the great privilege to work with nutritionist on fescue research as well as serve as the president of the Food Animal Practitioner's Club, and go on several mission trips through Christian Vet Missions. Throughout my eight years of college, I had never lost touch with the small town that gave me my start and supported me along the way. I returned to Madison shortly after graduation to work with my mentor, Dr. Patrick Comyn. While in practice, I have strived to offer great services to our clients, always looking towards new research and really focusing on good communication. I also help with the local 4-H and FFA, have rejoined the Madison County Fair Board, and am a member of the Madison County Young Farmers. My husband, who I met through livestock showing, and I now own over one hundred brood cows and manage over 200 more along with caring for 29,200 turkeys, and raising our most precious gift, our two year old daughter, Grace.
What made you become a food animal veterinarian? I enjoyed working with livestock and producers, loved agriculture and wanted to make a difference for the better. I also loved science and math and figured that getting to be out and about everyday working with cattle, goats, sheep, etc wouldn't be such a bad deal. So, I decided that I would like to be a food animal vet. I paired up with my local vet practice and mentor when I was in high school, and am now employed as an associate at that very same practice, helping those in my community and trying to pay forward all that was payed to me as a youth in this little town.
What is your favorite part of your job? My favorite part of the job is the diversity it offers. I will most likely NEVER do the same thing two days in a row, probably won't be in the same area, and may not have the same regular hours from day to day. This used to overwhelm and frustrate me, but I have learned to embrace it, and the new challenges or simple change of scenery help to break through the monotony of same job, same place, same task. I am so thankful for what I do, the producers who entrust me with their livelihood, and the animals under my care.
What is the toughest part of your job? When I first started in practice, I would have said the physical difficulties were the toughest. I had the benefit of having worked on a farm, so I had strength, but I'm short, so I had to find methods that worked for me to overcome those obstacles. Today, I would have to say the toughest part, is finding that work/life balance to spend time with my daughter and to help my husband build our family farm.
What is your advice for those interested in pursuing a career in food animal medicine? The best thing I could tell someone interested in doing what I do, is "Get out there and do it!" Especially, for those who do not have an animal background. A lot can be taught in a classroom, but there is NO SUBSTITUTE for hands-on experience, and it doesn't have to be "vet" specific. Work at a dairy for a summer, go out and ride feedlots, volunteer for lamb/kid watch, visit your local farmer's market and talk to producers, get involved with your local agricultural organizations. The more you learn about the industry as a whole and how food animal veterinary medicine fits into it, helping the animals, practicing population medicine and assuring a safe food supply, the better equipped you will be to help your clients. Yes, you should still ride with a food animal vet, mainly to determine if you can stomach a bull pooping on your head during a BSE, or performing a fetotomy in July ;-) But, knowing the industry is where you make the most connections with your clients and can truly become an asset to them.