For 74-year-old Roy Schultz of Avoca, IA, being in the right place at the right time has led to a prosperous life and fulfilling career in veterinary practice that has spanned 47 years.
From an early age, Schultz knew he wanted to become a swine veterinarian, but achieving that goal would take some precise timing.
Growing up on a diversified livestock farm, he learned to help with the beef cattle, milked cows and worked with the pigs and even some chickens. He helped with planting the fields and harvesting the corn in the rolling hills of southwestern Iowa — all done with horses.
Schultz learned compassion for animals early in life. He witnessed his pet dog die of distemper when there was no vaccine or treatment to deal with the problem. A 4-H heifer suffered and died from “hardware disease,” —swallowing wire, etc. around the farm. And when swine dysentery hit, oats treated with lye was the treatment. “It actually worked,” he says with a grin.
Fueling his passion for becoming a swine practitioner was neighboring farmer-turned-veterinarian Henry Stock, who, like his father, was a tenant farmer who believed in a strong work ethic. Stock decided to take a different career path and become a pig veterinarian. He did and excelled at it.
For Schultz, his career path to become a swine veterinarian was blocked by a lack of funds for education. He graduated from a one-room country school at the top of his high school class at Avoca, but scholarships were scant in those days. A friend suggested he try attending Iowa State University (ISU) for a winter quarter and enroll in agriculture. He did so and quickly excelled, earning a 4.0 grade point average.
Then, as timing would have it, the Ak-Sar-Ben livestock exposition in Nebraska offered him a one-year scholarship and he enrolled again at ISU.
Sensing a military duty, he put his name up for the draft for the Korean War and joined the U.S. Army. But instead of ending up in combat in Asia, Schultz was one of two men out of 1,600 who were selected to become a radio operator and repairman in Europe during the Cold War. He was stationed near the Berlin Wall dividing East and West Germany.
When he returned home, the GI bill provided funds for school, supplemented by four jobs. At ISU, he met his wife, Jan, while in speech class.
Schultz still managed to do well in school despite the hectic pace, achieving a bachelor's degree in farm operations in 1958, following by his swine veterinary degree in 1960.
Practicing veterinary medicine was a lot of hard work from the '60s through the '80s, with many days out the door at 5 a.m. and not returning home until 10 p.m., Schultz recalls.
Throughout his career, it has been a job he loved, which means he has never really had to work a day in his life!
“My failure to contain a large respiratory outbreak in a new confinement unit by traditional methods drove me to investigate and find the causative agent. I did find it — by accident, persistence and just blind luck,” Schultz admits in a founder's speech at the American Association of Swine Veterinarian's annual meeting in March 2006 in Kansas City, MO.
To research the problem, Schultz returned to ISU, earning a master's degree, while his wife remained at home raising their three children. He discovered the respiratory affliction was what is now known as Actinobacillus pleuropneumonia (APP). Schultz developed and patented the first APP vaccine, which he sold in 1989.
As he noted in his founder's speech, Schultz was one of 30 veterinarians who penned their names on a yellow pad at a meeting in Minneapolis in 1969, signaling the formation of the original swine veterinary organization, the American Association of Swine Practitioners.
Schultz owned a successful 1,000-sow, farrow-to-finish operation for 12 years that featured confined nurseries and finishers, with outside pen gestation and individual farrowing huts. He didn't want to sell the hog operation, but was persuaded to by Wendell Murphy of North Carolina. Murphy especially wanted his large inventory of hogs that were near market weight, but didn't want to pay elevated prices, so he promised to pay what the market brought. Hogs had been averaging about $30/cwt. when negotiations were made.
But as it turned out, when the operation was sold on Oct. 6, 1987, market hog prices hit a record $62. “Remember, it's not being smart, it's timing that's the important thing,” stresses a smiling Schultz.
There have been serious personal challenges in his life as well, including a bout with cancer several years back that a urologist helped cure. Less than two weeks after delivering his address at the 2006 AASV annual meeting in Kansas City, he suffered a stroke while speaking before 600 veterinarians in Vietnam. Timing was on his side again, as a young French doctor in Saigon quickly administered a clot-busting drug that saved his life.
Schultz has decided to slow down a bit, limiting international travel, but continuing to serve as a swine veterinary consultant as long as his health holds out. He also continues his love as a conservationist and avid hunter. He is proud to be a co-founder of the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep, which has worked diligently the past 27 years in preserving the wild sheep of the world.
Schultz has accumulated a wide array of honors and held many prestigious offices:
One of the founding fathers of the AASV;
President of the AASV in 1986;
Past swine practitioner of the year;
Recipient of the Howard Dunne Memorial Award from the AASV in 1991;
Only foreign veterinarian to receive “Swine Practitioner of the Year” award from Venezuela;
A life member of the AASV;
Diplomat in swine health management by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (emeritus);
Awarded life membership to the U.S. Animal Health Association (USAHA), and represented the AASV in the executive board for 25 years;
Honorary Iowa Master Pork Producer;
Al Leman Science in Practice award from the University of Minnesota; and
The first recipient of the Science in Practice award from Iowa State University.
Schultz is quick to credit others for their help and guidance in his success: his father, for teaching him the value of hard work; his wife, for her unflinching support through tough times; the late Alex Hogg, DVM, of Nebraska, for teaching the importance of being a lifetime learner; Richard Ross of Iowa State University, for teaching the value of complete and exacting research; and John Herrick, DVM, of Arizona, for teaching the importance of communication, both oral and written.
Schultz' best advice for success: “Work hard. Be honest with yourself and others and have the most integrity. It takes years to build a reputation, but it can be lost in a second.”
And as he ended his Founder's message at the AASV meeting in Kansas City, he proclaimed: “I'm proud to be a swine veterinarian.”
— Joe Vansickle, Senior Editor