SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Most livestock producers won’t call the state veterinarian for livestock problems but the state vet is still looking out for those animals.

One of the overall goals of the state veterinarian is to “help producers in the state manage and keep healthy livestock,” said assistant state veterinarian Mendel Miller.

South Dakota will need a new state veterinarian as Dustin Oedekoven is leaving the position for a job with a national livestock organization.

The state veterinarian works for the state’s Animal Industry Board. The office has a staff that includes nine veterinarians including five at the state office and four that live around the state.

One of the roles of the office is to prepare for the arrival and spread of diseases in livestock.

“Our office does a lot of planning,” Miller said. The planning includes tabletop exercises that model what happens when a particular virus infects livestock in the state or the U.S.

The state’s veterinarian offices had a key role in the 2015 avian flu or bird flu, an outbreak that killed 50 million birds.

Miller said the office determined if poultry production facilities needed to be shut down and if birds needed to be euthanized to stop the spread of bird flu.

FILE – A flock of young turkeys stand in a barn at the Moline family turkey farm after the Mason, Iowa farm was restocked on Aug. 10, 2015. Farms that raise turkeys and chickens for meat and eggs are on high alert, fearing a repeat of a widespread bird flu outbreak in 2015 that killed 50 million birds across 15 states and cost the federal government nearly $1 billion. The new fear is driven by the discovery announced Feb. 9, 2022, of the virus infecting a commercial turkey flock in Indiana. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

The office helped processing and production facilities respond to prevent transmission in other ways such as limiting trucks that enter a turkey farm, Miller said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will handle a crisis at the national level but the state’s veterinarian offices work at the state level with the USDA, said Glenn Muller, the executive director of the South Dakota Pork Producers Council.

During an animal health crisis the state may shut down transport for a set period, Muller said of one example of how the state works during an animal health crisis.

Past good work by the state office and AIB has resulted in fewer issues today with illness in the cattle industry, said Tara Runyan, the executive director of the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association.

The state office also handles the meat inspection program in the state. The veterinarians may be working in specific areas, Miller said.

The state has also “done a lot with Beef Quality Assurance,” Runyan said.

Beef Quality Assurance is “a national program offers proper management techniques and a commitment to quality within every segment of the beef industry,” according to the Beef Quality Assurance website.

Also according to the BQA website, a goal is to raise consumer confidence.

The state vet and the AIB have regular communication with livestock associations, Miller said.

Runyan described it as an “open door” relationship in which her organization is comfortable reaching out to the state.

“The state veterinarian and I have a close working relationship,” Muller said.

Muller and Runyan said they rely on the state vet and AIB to provide needed updates and information that will benefit their producers.

The state veterinarian also works with the testing of samples sent by local veterinarians. The state works with two labs including the lab at South Dakota State University in Brookings.

Muller said the lab at SDSU has been substantially renovated and is a benefit through the state vet and AIB.