Doctors Ben and Erin Schroeder have been married for nearly 2 decades and have practiced veterinary medicine together for over 15 years. They run a family-owned veterinary practice called Cedar County Veterinary Services in Hartington, Nebraska, that was started by Ben’s father, Dr. John Shroeder, in 1970.
Together, Drs. Ben and Erin have helped animals of all species, from hamsters to horses to horned owls, in their rural farming community in America’s heartland. Their work has landed them a new show on Nat Geo WILD called Heartland Docs, which will premiere on Saturday, January 25 at 10pm/9pm CT.
We had the opportunity to chat with Dr. Ben (Dr. Erin was with a patient) about what it’s like working with a spouse, the experience of being a rural veterinarian, and the impact of severe weather changes on their practice.
PetPlace: It seems like the challenges and types of patients that rural veterinarians face are a bit different than what vets would see in urban and suburban areas. What are you hoping that people learn from watching your new show?
Dr. Ben: That we are all the same. A farmer with 400 cows loves them just as much as a person living in an apartment loves their dog. People have this misconception that every farm is a big corporate operation, but that’s just not the case. These animals that our farmers are raising feed their family and the community. They know the cows intimately. The people out here in the Midwest work their tails off to feed our nation and they care about their animals deeply.
Our little town is just like a family, and although our farmers and ranchers make up such a small percentage of the general population, I don’t want people to forget about us. These are the people who feed us, and I think it’s important to take care of them.
PP: It seems like climate change has had a big impact on the farms in your community. In the first episode of the show, your town had just experienced major flooding and you and Erin went from farm to farm to help livestock that was affected. How does the extreme weather affect your work?
DB: In our part of the world, we have so many animals, so when severe weather comes through, we have a lot of animals to care for. Just the other day, we had a downpour, but the ground was frozen and couldn’t absorb the rain. This leads to an overflow of rivers and creeks, which affect all of our farms and our animals.
The floods can take us by surprise–they’re very unpredictable–and the poor cows get stuck in the mud and can’t birth their babies. We’re always dealing with these very extreme conditions–it’s negative one degrees here today! But we aim to help producers and farmers prepare as best as they can. We answer a lot of questions and have spent much of our career educating and helping people.
PP: Well, it certainly doesn’t sound boring.
DB: It’s never boring! We were eating breakfast with the kids the other morning and got a call to go help a heifer, which is a first time young cow mom, deliver her calf. I took my sons with me and we got it done. And a few nights ago our phone rang at midnight. Erin and I got out of bed and went to help a puppy in need, we didn’t even think twice. If the phone rings, you answer it. Our clients are like family and they depend on us.
PP: We have to ask–how do you and Erin balance working together as a married couple?
DB: There have been times when jokes about someone getting neutered are made, but it’s actually a very interesting dynamic. Of course, it’s tough not to bring work home with us, but we do as much as we can together. Like anything else, we need to build in some downtime from work, although we also tend to do that together too. We just really love each other!
PP: We noticed that your father and your two sons, Charlie and Chase, make an appearance on the show. Is vet work a true family affair for the Schroeders?
DB: Well, animals are definitely a big part of being in our family. In our house, we have 2 cats, a dog, and a goat. Without animals around us, we wouldn’t be the Schroeder clan. Erin and I took over the practice from my father, who worked with animals, and it’s great to have our sons around to help us from time to time. We would love for them to go into veterinary medicine, but we’re not pushing them in any direction. They are 16 and 14 and still have a few years to decide what they want to do, but both of them have expressed interest in the field.
Be sure to check out the premiere of Heartland Docs, DVM on Nat Geo WILD on Saturday, January 25 at 10p/9p CT.