Caring for almost half a century

Sonstegard specializes in fertility, conventional practices

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HOFFMAN, Minn. — For 49 years, rope halter and sleeve at his side, veterinarian Gregg Sonstegard has been helping farmers and animals alike. Though technology has changed, Sonstegard’s ways have not.

Sonstegard owns Nordic Veterinary Service in Hoffman, and his work has ranged from routine herd checks of beef and dairy cattle to fertility programs to helping at sale barns.

“I still palpate the cows,” Sonstegard said. “Most of the time I can do just as good of a job with my arm as an ultrasound. That’s a big change to help the industry, but I never really used it.”

Working with the fertility of animals, Sonstegard said, has been one of the most constant and enjoyable things throughout his career.

“I did a lot of fertility work over the years,” Sonstegard said. “I had over 80 herds in a fertility program. It’s a lot of work, but it’s routine. Most days I’d be checking cows.”

The first time Sonstegard repaired a displaced abomasum, he was working on a fertility program in Pelican Rapids at a farm he still works with today.

Sonstegard said the advancement of antibiotic protocol that prevents antibiotics from entering the milk supply chain is an important one for dairy farmers.

Sonstegard has made many lasting connections between farmers and other veterinarians.

“There’s a shortage of large animal vets in areas, so we try to help out some other veterinarians when it gets busy,” he said.

As farmers have left the industry, Sonstegard said he has seen a reduction in large animal veterinary work on farms. His staff has dwindled to two office workers who handle the scheduling and administrative work.

“Here at the clinic, we do small animals too,” Sonstegard said. “It keeps me busy, and I enjoy it quite a bit.”

Through the years, Sonstegard received a lot of calls in the middle of the night.

“(I did) whatever it took to get it done,” Sonstegard said. “It didn’t bother me because I liked doing it. Plus, a lot of the time I was working into the night anyway to get work done.”

His wife, Mary, has been supportive of his career every step of the way.

“At one point, she had to do some driving for me when I got night calls,” Sonstegard said. “The kids went with me one or two times during the day because there was something they wanted to watch.”

Sonstegard has known since his senior year of high school that he wanted to be a veterinarian. Sonstegard worked on his parents’ hobby farm, raising goats, sheep, turkeys and cattle. He started riding around with a local veterinarian during high school.

During Sonstegard’s first year in college, he took courses to prepare him for veterinary school. After three years, he was accepted into the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine and graduated in 1975. He became licensed in Minnesota and North Dakota.

Sonstegard worked in Watertown and Pelican Rapids before working for Lake Region Veterinary Center in Elbow Lake. In 1980, Sonstegard purchased the clinic in Hoffman and started Nordic Veterinary Service.

Throughout the following years, Sonstegard bought the clinic in the neighboring town of Kensington and has had many others work with him prior to the decline in farm numbers.

“I enjoy working with cattle,” Sonstegard said. “I also enjoyed working with mushers at dog sled races. I did work at the Beargrease sled dog race in Duluth and the Iditarod race in Alaska.”

Sonstegard said his work varies greatly. He has worked with a dairy farm producing A2 milk as well as organic dairy farms that were in the process of changing their herd health management.

“For the sales barn, I pregnancy check cows and make sure they have official identification tags and prepared health certificates,” Sonstegard said.

Over the years, Sonstegard has worked at barns in Fargo, North Dakota, and Fergus Falls, Perham, Long Prairie and Belgrade. Through the exotic sales held once a month in Long Prairie, he has worked with a variety of animals, including llamas, pot belly pigs, chickens, birds, goats, sheep and pigs.

 Sonstegard has spent decades of work on the road and gone through many trucks, putting as much as 450,000 miles on some of them.

“It’s what I wanted to do,” Sonstegard said. “I like doing things for other people who appreciate and are thankful for me helping out, whether it’s an emergency or a routine checkup.”

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