Cleon V. Kimberling, DVM
On July 17, 1930 Cleon Kimberling made his appearance onto this planet with the aid of a neighbor lady. His father was in the middle of harvest in the hot wheat fields of western Nebraska driving a 12 head hitch of beautiful draft horses pulling what was then called a Header. His education to animal behavior and health started in those early years being surrounded with the typical array of horses, cattle, swine, chickens, turkeys, geese, the barn cats and dogs. All of these animals contributed to the livelihood of the farm family. Early in this educational process he experienced first hand an outbreak of equine encephalomyelitis. This technical term was implanted into his vocabulary at about the 3rd grade level when attending the one room country school. At about the same level, another traumatic educational event happened when the entire Poland China swine operation experienced an outbreak of Hog Cholera, now an exotic disease. As this educational process continued he lost his favorite saddle horse to an impaction, which was beyond the ability of the local veterinarian to correct. Later on, his favorite heifer was left with an obturator paralysis due to improper and excessive traction. This was probably the sequence of events that prompted the pursuit of an education in Veterinary Medicine.
One of Cleon's first jobs after receiving a degree in Veterinary Medicine was with the USDA Animal Disease Control Division. As a field veterinarian, he spent time tracking down scrapie exposed rams from Canada. While at the farms and ranches, he would palpate the remaining rams for epididymitis as there was no blood test for it then. This came at a time when there was a push to eradicate Brucellosis. During his 6 years with USDA ADCD (now APHIS) there was more education and research at the University of Minnesota where he received a Masters in Public Health. During this time, he and a colleague developed the card test antigen and technique that was used universally in many laboratories and sale barns. His drive was standardization of tests, efficiency and accuracy. Proper animal identification was a constant battle. A need arose for early detection of brucellosis in large dairies in California. Dr. Kimberling, in cooperation with the California Department of Agriculture, developed a testing procedure that was beneficial in early detection using bulk tank samples. The sensitivity of the existing test was adjusted to the number of animals contributing to the sample.
Dr. Kimberling continued to work with brucellosis over the years and his encounters with reproductive failure in sheep increased. In cooperation with Lane Manufacturing, he developed a hand-held, battery operated ejaculator for rams (& billies) that is the industry standard today. His work set the current criterion for the Ram Breeding Soundness Evaluations with the Society of Theriogenology. Dr. K was instrumental in the development of the standard technique for the B. ovis ELISA test and he was one of the first to correlate white blood cells in a semen sample with the chance of culturing B.ovis
His quest for efficiency continued with he and Dr. Gary Rupp developing the K-R Spay instrument, which greatly improved the time and reduced the trauma for ovariectomy (spaying) of heifers.
Animal nutrition has always been a passion of Dr. K in promoting a healthy animal. Measuring the micro-mineral levels in the body was a challenge. To more accurately measure the level of these elements, a liver sample was necessary. He developed a liver biopsy instrument and a technique to efficiently collect samples from cattle and sheep as well as an adipose tissue biopsy technique.
His work with Radio Frequency Identification Devices along with Dr. Jay Parsons, Geri Parsons and Dr. Wayne Cunningham has set the ground work for reading, scanning, and bar-coding for disease control for state and federal agencies.
Working on problems facing the cattle and sheep industry and delivering educational information to the producers remains a top priority. He states that “as long as the body and mind hold up he will continue this pursuit.”
Geri Parsons is a certified veterinary technician and co-owner of Optimal Livestock Services, LLC, with specialties in sheep health, reproduction and management. She grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in western Nebraska. Her previous professional positions include 19 years with the Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. This position combined work for Cooperative Extension, Integrated Livestock Management, Food Animal Medicine & Surgery Technical Support Supervisor / Head Technician, Equine Medicine and Small Animal Critical Care. She also has 6 years of veterinary technician experience working in private practices with varying specialties in Nebraska, Idaho, Wyoming, California and Colorado. Geri is author or co-author of numerous book chapters and publications including “Raising Healthy Sheep”, a popular sheep industry handbook published in multiple languages and sold throughout the world.
Jay Parsons grew up on a diversified crop and livestock farm in the southwestern panhandle of Nebraska. He attended Hastings College and Colorado State University earning a bachelor's degree in mathematics and mathematics education, a master's degree in mathematics, and a Ph.D. in agricultural economics. His areas of specialization include production economics, risk management, and decision analysis. His current work is focused on helping farmers and ranchers understand risk and emerging management tools.
Jay is President and co-owner of Optimal Ag Consulting, Inc. in Fort Collins, Colorado. Along with his wife, Geri, he co-founded Optimal Livestock Services LLC in 2009 as a wholly owned subsidiary of Optimal Ag focused on meeting the growing services needs of the sheep and livestock industry and assisting producers in optimizing profitability. Jay is an Associate Professor of Agricultural Economics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he teaches Advanced Farm Management and researches integrated agricultural production systems with a multi-disciplinary group of scholars. He remains an active stake holder in the family farming operation in Nebraska.
Dr. Wayne Cunningham boasts 50 years of experience working in and making valuable contributions to the livestock industries of the United States. After earning a bachelor’s degree from Utah State University, he completed his doctorate in Veterinary Medicine in 1965 at Colorado State University. He later completed a residency in the Department of Veterinary Medicine at Colorado State University and earned a master’s degree in Clinical Science. After seventeen years operating a sheep and cattle ranch, he returned to Colorado State University one last time to complete a two-year Post Doc in Integrated Resource Management. During that time, Wayne was a research associate working closely with Dr. Kimberling and Colorado sheep and cattle producers. In 1994 he became an Assistant State veterinarian with the Colorado Department of Agriculture and in May of 2000 ascended to the position of Colorado State Veterinarian.
Since retired, Dr. Cunningham remains a strong advocate for Colorado livestock producers and continues his ties with the sheep industry as a mentor, advisor and producer. Dr. Cunningham has received numerous awards over the years honoring his service to the livestock industry including being name the 2002 Veterinarian of the Year by the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association. Throughout his career, Dr. Cunningham has played an active role in pursuing research answers that benefit producers, the livestock industry and the public as a whole. Examples include studies and publications on foot rot, artificial insemination, pregnancy diagnosis, and carcass quality issues.