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Thompson returns home as state vet

Mark Newman/Getty images Black angus cattle herd on prairie
NEW VETERINARIAN: Dr. Beth Thompson will begin her role soon as South Dakota’s state veterinarian. She says she looks forward to moving back to her home state.
Groton native Beth Thompson named new South Dakota state veterinarian.

Beth Thompson is coming home when she starts May 9 as the state veterinarian and executive director of the South Dakota Animal Industry Board.

The Groton, S.D., native has been the state veterinarian and executive director of Minnesota’s Board of Animal Health since 2016, but she had been with the Minnesota BAH since 2008 having served as a senior veterinarian and program director before becoming assistant director in 2014.

Thompson was comfortable with her position in Minnesota, but when Dusty Oedekoven exited the South Dakota state veterinarian position earlier this year, a veterinarian friend from South Dakota messaged Thompson telling her to “dust off her resume and come home.”

Thompson’s initial reaction was no. But then, she says, “I thought, why not?” With friends and family in South Dakota, she saw this as good time to move one state to the west.

She looks forward to getting back home, and working with the members of the South Dakota Animal Industry Board and livestock producers. Though her leadership style may vary from Oedekoven’s, Thompson says she fully supports the mission of the SDAIB. She looks to lean on those board members, who are producers and one veterinarian, because she sees their dedication to their own livestock and the entire industry to see that work gets done.

Beth Thompson COMING HOME: Beth Thompson starts her role as state veterinarian for South Dakota starting May 9, after serving in the same role in Minnesota since 2016.

“I think anybody who’s involved in agriculture, especially with livestock, that you don’t take weekends off,” she says. “It’s not a 9-to-5 job, and that’s part of my work ethic. I grew up on a farm, too. You’re available 24/7,” she says. “These board members are very keyed into that work ethic, and I appreciate that. Again, I have high respect for them.”

Thompson is familiar with working with a board, as she currently works with the Minnesota BAH, a six-member board appointed by the governor.

For proof of her work ethic, one only has to look back to mid-April as she and many lab technicians worked the entire Easter weekend to stop the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza in the Gopher State.

Looking back to the Minnesota HPAI break in 2015, she says, “It was at least six months of no weekends, no days off. That’s part of what the state needs to be there assisting, moving the process along. That’s why we’re here; we’re public servants.”

Thompson’s radar

While HPAI grabs headlines on the poultry front and African swine fever threatens the pork industry, Thompson says producers and ranchers cannot let their guard down against other livestock threats.

“We have to make sure [in South Dakota] that we’re watching and responding to any introductions of tuberculosis,” with the last case in spring of 2021, she says. And the constant threat of anthrax merits continued herd surveillance.

Traceability is key in livestock disease containment and control, and Thompson says South Dakota’s “active large auction markets” can prove challenging. “With TB, it’s really important to be able to trace those animals as quickly as possible,” she says to maintain the state’s TB-free status.

Coming full circle

After graduating from Groton High School in 1981, she received her undergrad degree from Northern State College in Aberdeen, S.D., in 1986. She then got her juris doctor degree from William Mitchell College of Law in 1992.

“I wanted to be an agriculture lawyer, and I wasn’t quite sure what that job was going to be but I wanted to get back into agriculture,” she says. That took her to St. Cloud, Minn., where she worked on ag-related cases, including cases involving stray voltage.

“But that just wasn’t filling the bill,” she says, deciding to return to college in 2003 to obtain her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota. Upon completing her DVM degree in 2007, Thompson became veterinarian for Holden Farms, a swine production system based in Northfield, Minn.

Thompson fills the vacancy created when Oedekoven became chief veterinarian for the National Pork Board earlier this year.

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