Former Student Profile: Dr. Joe Gillespie

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Dr. Joe Gillespie (center) was presented the 2010 DQC Veterinarian of the Year Award. Dr. Tom Van Dyke, (left) manager of Merial Veterinary Services Team and Colette Johnston (right) of the Dairy Quality Center presented Gillespie with the award at the American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP) annual meeting held Aug. 18-20, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Photo courtesy of Merial.

Dr. Joe Gillespie grew up in the small Texas town of Poteet, south of San Antonio. From the time he was 10 years old, Gillespie knew he wanted to be a veterinarian and appropriately, always wanted to attend Texas A&M. Ironically, he was a Poteet High School Aggie before heading to Aggieland. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in animal science in 1990, a master’s degree in reproductive physiology in 1993 and his DVM in 1995. Gillespie is proud of the fact that he is the first of his family to receive a post graduate degree.

Currently Gillespie spends his days on a 4,000 cow dairy in Nebraska as a managing partner of Wood River Dairy, not something he ever imagined he would be doing. He said in vet school, whenever dairy cattle were mentioned, as a beef guy, he would move to the back of the room. Now having been in the industry for nearly 20 years he says he wouldn’t change a thing. Having joined Wood River in September, Gillespie is responsible for daily operations on the farm and the employees. He has a team of 40 people who help to provide 250,000 lbs. of fresh milk to their cooperative (Dairy Farmers of America) daily. As a veterinarian, he is also responsible for the health and wellbeing of all the animals on the farm.

What are some highlights of your life?

I am happily married to my wife Julie Ann (Froman) Gillespie ’93.  We have been married for 21 years, 20 of which we have spent here in McCook, Nebraska.  We have 3 children:  Andersen (17, a senior), Tucker (13, 7th grade) and Reese (9, 3rd grade).  We are both proud Texans, but we have enjoyed our time and life here in Nebraska.

Do your kids think you’re cool?

I hope so.  Really, I enjoy every minute with each of them. They all three are different but that makes me love them more just because of who they are. All three of them have been interested in what I have done for a career. You know they think you’re pretty cool when they dress up as you for Halloween. Andersen has always been my animal lover. She participated in her first animal surgery when she was 4 years old. Tucker has always wanted to know what and how I do every job and has become interested in how things work with all animals, especially his horses. Finally, Reese, our youngest, wants to be a farmer.  Now as a dairy farm owner, he is the most excited of all (he probably thinks I’m the coolest).

Do you have any interesting hobbies or interests?

We are active in showing horses in AQHA and NRCHA in working cowhorse classes.  Quite a challenge considering you are working with an equine partner and cattle with a mind of their own.

Did you have any key mentors or people who deeply influenced who you are, what you believe in and what you’re committed to in your work and life?

Yes, Dr. John Clader, DVM from Jourdanton, Texas.  He was a great influence on my career choice and my development as a young man.  He is also a graduate of Texas A&M University.

What was your favorite ANSC class and why?

I would have to say Reproductive Physiology (ANSC433), with Dr. Forrest.  I have always been interested in this area and I think it started in that class.

Who was your favorite ANSC professor and why?

Dr. Howard Hesby.  I don’t know any one man that touched as many lives in his time at Texas A&M.  He cared about everyone and wanted us all to succeed in college and life.

What is one of your favorite memories of your time here?

There are too many to count and/or remember, but I believe the time I spent with my different teammates traveling on judging teams had to be some of the best experiences. I was on the wool, meats and livestock judging teams throughout my time at A&M.  Some of those bus rides across the country got exciting.

What activities were you involved in? How do you feel those activities helped you academically, in your current career, personally, etc.?

I was active in about everything I could be in the animal science department.  First as a member of the wool, meats and livestock judging teams.  Second as a member of Saddle & Sirloin.  I held the positions of chairman of the membership committee, then vice president and finally president my senior year.  These different activities had a huge impact on who I am now and the bonds that I made with my fellow former students.

If you weren’t a vet, what would you be doing?

That is what I am doing now.  For the past 5 years, I have been in some type of dairy management.  First as the COO for McCarty Family Farms in Rexford, Kansas.  Which was a dairy farm milking 8,500 cows and processing its own milk.  Now I am the managing partner of Wood River Dairy milking 4,000 cows.

Why did you decide to become a vet?

I wanted to make a difference in the livestock industry.  I felt having the opportunity as a veterinarian, I would be able to have a significant impact on the industry.

What advice would you give students wanting to pursue a career in veterinary medicine?

Work hard at achieving balance in your life.  Study hard, but make sure you experience college and all the opportunities it can offer.  We all know a lot of time is spent in the classroom, but life as a veterinarian is not all about the classroom.  If you achieve balance you will understand better if you are ready for the challenges of a career in veterinary medicine.

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For more information regarding news from the Department of Animal Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Texas A&M University, please contact Maggie Tucker at maggie.tucker@tamu.edu or (979) 845-1542.

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