Veterinarian finds perfect fit
Sarah Mills-Lloyd said she recalls vividly the accident that introduced her to veterinary medicine. She was 6 or 7 years old, living in her hometown of Sheldon in northwestern Wisconsin, on the day her family’s beloved Dachschund mix, Penny, suffered a broken leg.
“She always found a safe haven in the drooped-fabric back of our living-room recliner,” said Mills-Lloyd, a 2005 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-School of Veterinary Medicine. “Unknown to me, she was asleep in her favorite spot when I sat down and reclined the chair.”
Penny limped out from underneath the furniture with an injury that needed to be repaired with an external fixation device, but she was soon back to her old self. Mills-Lloyd, however, was changed.
Through this experience, she said, she learned the fulfillment that can come from caring for an animal. She also saw the patience, kindness and compassion of the veterinarians involved — not only toward Penny but the entire family. And what ultimately drew her into the field was the revelation that veterinarians can truly touch the lives of people.
“I realized the profession of veterinary medicine provides the opportunity and ability to speak into the lives of others and become a trusted source of knowledge,” Mills-Lloyd said.
She said she certainly felt this connection with her clients during her eight years of private practice in northeastern Wisconsin, and it continues today in her current role. As a University of Wisconsin-Extension agriculture agent in Oconto and Marinette counties, part of Mills-Lloyd’s job is to offer individualized consultations on agricultural issues for government agencies, youth and farmers. Although her primary role on the farm has changed, she continues to share her knowledge and make a difference for others.
Her influence can be seen in the experience of the Finger Family Farm in Oconto, Wisconsin. Phil and Laura Finger contacted Mills-Lloyd after noticing a chronically elevated somatic cell count among their dairy herd — a sign of mastitis and a potential drop in milk quality. Following a diligent review of herd records, protocols and treatments, she connected the Fingers with Pamela Ruegg, professor of dairy science in the UW–Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Ruegg recommended reestablishing an on-farm culturing system.
Mills-Lloyd then made multiple trips to the farm to help implement the system and teach the Fingers how to interpret results. Today they are able to monitor cases of mastitis more carefully and establish treatments sooner, all to the benefit of the herd and the milk it produces.
“Now, looking back, it has all come together and feels so easy to figure out what pathogens we are fighting so I know what class of antibiotics, if any, should be used,” Laura Finger said. “I credit Sarah for her patience and technical expertise in developing our ‘lab.’”
In addition to consultations, Mills-Lloyd teaches workshops on dairy science, livestock and agri-business management for general audiences. She also conducts applied research in collaboration with faculty at UW-System campuses. Her teaching abilities have earned her a spot as an instructor in calf and young-stock health with the Nestlé Dairy Farming Institute, a program created by UW–Madison dairy scientists to bring best practices in dairy management to China. In addition, she recently used her knowledge, skills and education to develop an innovative on-farm research project, the Calf Sanitation Audit program, which dairy farmers can use to test the effectiveness of their cleaning programs.
It comes as no surprise that Mills-Lloyd excels in these many roles given her wide variety of experiences beyond large-animal veterinary medicine. Those include working on dairy farms as a youth; completing internships focused on epidemiology, food safety and veterinary diagnostics; teaching high school science; and serving on veterinary medical mission trips to Asia and Central America.
“It’s truly a blend of my knowledge and education as a veterinarian,” said Mills-Lloyd, who credits the School of Veterinary Medicine for preparing her for a range of careers. “In this position, I not only have the ability to educate people, but I have the ability to influence others. During my extension career, it has been my privilege to get to know many agricultural families on a personal as well as a professional level.”
The Fingers are one such family. Since her initial farm visits to address the mastitis issue, Mills-Lloyd has been back to troubleshoot other problems.
“Sarah’s overall knowledge and personality are simply amazing,” Laura Finger said. “She is so farm-friendly … combined with being academically skilled and mixed with her worldly experiences. Sarah can also ask the right questions to get people to open up and help troubleshoot answers to get our industry to where we need to be.”