As Missouri’s State Veterinarian, Dr. Linda Hickam is charged with identifying, controlling and eradicating animal disease within the state.
Minimizing the risk of disease among Missouri’s livestock is no small task. The state is home to roughly 4 million cattle and calves and nearly 3 million hogs and pigs, as well as about 200,000 horses and 80,000 sheep. More than 99,000 cattle, 1.1 million hogs and thousands of horses come into Missouri each year for shows, breeding and sales, as well.
“The health of Missouri’s livestock is a leader among states,” Hickam says. “We take the health of our animals very seriously, and continue to invest in protecting our livestock and livestock producers from destructive and costly diseases.” Hickam also leads the Missouri Department of Agriculture’s Division of Animal Health, oversees operations at Missouri’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories in Jefferson City and Springfield, and helps to establish regulations and policies affecting Missouri livestock and the farmers and farm families raising those animals.
Nationally, Missouri is a leader in the number of cattle and calves in the state, second only to Texas. Missouri’s cattle producers are a large part of the success of Missouri’s agriculture industry, one of the state’s major economic drivers.
The heavy load that comes with serving as Missouri’s leading animal health authority and ensuring that Missouri remains competitive in regional, national and international livestock markets is something Hickam sees as an opportunity.
When she was named Missouri’s State Veterinarian in September 2011, she became the first female state veterinarian in the United States, although she wouldn’t tell you that. For her, it’s about the opportunity to serve. A former high school agriculture and math instructor, Hickam graduated from the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine. Most recently, she served as Missouri’s deputy state veterinarian and state epidemiologist.
As state veterinarian, Hickam has made raising awareness of diseases and improving testing a priority. She has traveled throughout the state speaking to local agricultural organizations and livestock associations about the risk of disease.
“Missouri is home to some of the most stringent animal health regulations and most rigorous testing,” Hickam says. “As technology continues to improve, we’ll see our tests for disease become even more sensitive and efficient for our veterinarians, producers and all others involved in animal care. It will be exciting to see opportunities and improvements in efficiency and animal health realized through future developments.”