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Balancing the hat rack

Progressive Dairy Editorial Intern Madison Leak Published on 08 November 2021
Dr. Kohtz

Steam rises into the cool Idaho morning air from the freshly mixed batch of TMR recently dumped in front of the pen of Holsteins.

As the cows chomp down on their breakfast, Dr. Elizabeth Quesnell Kohtz closes her right eye and squints into the monitor hanging on the left lens of her glasses. Her brow furrows in concentration as she looks for a fetus on the monitor, which only takes her a few seconds to find.

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“Confirm,” she says, pulling her hands-free ultrasound from the newly confirmed pregnant Holstein and moving down the line to the next one.

Veterinarian is the name of the hat Kohtz is donning today as she does a routine herd health check for one of her Idaho dairy clients, though her hat rack is full of many. Owner and operator of Quesnell Kohtz Veterinary Services and a milk quality lab, member of the American Farm Bureau Federation, district board of director for the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, treasurer of the Idaho Veterinary Medical Association, 4-H leader, avid runner, adventurer, churchgoer, laundry attendant, farm manager, irrigation monitor, master chef, chauffeur, sister, friend, daughter, wife and mom grace Kohtz’s hat rack. All of it keeps her on her toes.

A native of Twin Falls, Idaho, where she currently resides with her husband and two daughters, Kohtz is a full-time veterinarian, specializing in dairy. Serving as the primary veterinarian for a six-dairy farm group in Filer, Idaho, Kohtz splits her time among regular vet checks, employee trainings, management meetings and protocol adjustments.

“I love cows,” Kohtz says. “When we first started our family, I was working one day a week as a mixed animal relief vet, and I remember my husband telling me, ‘We need to get you around some cows’ every time I started getting a little crabby. I just love these animals and feel lucky I get to work with them and help dairy producers recognize their potential.”

Kohtz grew up on a small dairy and row-crop farm and knew from a young age she wanted to be a veterinarian. As a child, she could often be found assisting her father and brother in the day-to-day activities on their operation. At the age of 4, Kohtz was given a doctor’s kit as a gift, which she used to give any farm cat she could get her hands on injections and examinations.

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She participated in 4-H and FFA during her school years, serving as the Idaho state FFA vice president in 1997-98, while attending the University of Idaho for her undergraduate degree in veterinary science.

Kohtz met her husband, Steven, during her time at the University of Idaho. After dating for six years and finishing vet school, the couple married and moved to southern California while Steven finished medical school. Kohtz began practicing in Chino, working as an associate veterinarian and a milk quality lab manager. It was here her passion for milk quality and dairy consultations developed.

“People often ask me what my favorite part of being a vet is,” Kohtz says. “I love the cows. I love being outside and working with them, solving problems and helping them feel better. But I really love the people, too. The owners, herdsmen, managers – really, they’re all great, and it’s fun to get to know everyone’s story.

“Some of the guys who work here are truly inspiring … the main herdsman at this facility came to America when he was 17. He’s worked at this facility ever since then, even as ownership switched hands a few times. He knows cows; he runs a tight ship; he’s hard-working – guys like him make my job easy and really make the dairy successful.”

Kohtz’s work with her dairy clients qualified her to be named the 2020 Verified Premium Plus Vet of the Year.

“I don’t feel I deserve that title,” Kohtz says with a chuckle. “It is nice to be recognized for my efforts to help dairy producers become more profitable and produce a high-quality product.”

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Verified Premium Plus is a certification earned by dairies who meet a certain criterion, which will allow their cull cows to be sold at a higher premium. An audit is conducted by a Dairy Quality Center veterinarian to ensure milk and beef quality, animal health and welfare, pathogen risk mitigation, employee care and environmental sustainability are up to par.

“We focus on a lot of preventative medicine when it comes to the health of the cows,” Kohtz says. “A cow will never be 100 percent after you treat her, so prevention is way better than treatment.”

Kohtz says winning this award has “come full circle,” as VPP is donating a $1,000 scholarship award in her name to the Magic Valley Dairy Heifer program, a local program she received scholarship money through to pay for vet school.

“It helped me pay for school and get me to where I am today,” Kohtz says. “Hopefully, that money will help another student, whether it be someone [who] wants to have an effect on dairy or just in agriculture in general.”  end mark

PHOTO: Dr. Kohtz performs a routine herd health check for one of her dairy clients. Staff photo.

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