By Amy Trinidad
July 2005 -- Forty - is the number of years Cleon Kimberling, DVM, has dedicated to serve the Colorado State University (CSU). In speaking with him, one can tell he is just as passionate about his work in the sheep industry today as he was 40-years ago.
"I am amazed at his (Kimberling?s) energy and enthusiasm for the sheep industry. At a point in his career when it would have been easy to just coast, Dr. Kimberling has become involved in major health and management issues facing the U.S. sheep industry," says David Greene, member of the American Sheep Industry Association Research and Education Council.
Over the past 40 years, Kimberling's research has been a great asset to the U.S. sheep industry as he has spent a great deal of his time studying sheep. And, although he will officially retire on July 31 as the CSU extension veterinarian, he says his commitment to the sheep industry will not end.
"The sheep industry will be a part of my life after retirement," says Kimberling. "I don't imagine I will get away from it."
Kimberling moved from southwest Nebraska to attend CSU as an undergraduate student; he graduated in 1951 with a degree in animal science. At that time, he was drafted to the Army and spent two years in Europe.
"Once my tour was finished, Uncle Sam paid for me to go back to school," says Kimberling. "That's when I returned to CSU and earned my DVM in 1959."
He spent the next six years working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in Minnesota, where he earned his master's degree in public health. He then returned to CSU in 1965 for a position on the extension team.
Kimberling says he owes his interest in the sheep industry to R.E. Pierson, DVM, who was both a co-worker and a good friend.
"Pierson gave me a lot of help and assistance; that's how I got into the sheep industry," Kimberling says.
Back when Kimberling started at CSU, he says, "There were a lot of sheep in this country (Rocky Mountain Front Range); every little farm had about 800 to 1,000 head of sheep to clean-up crop aftermath.
"This was the sheep feeding capital of the world."
Because of the large number of sheep, the CSU Extension Office employed many famous sheep specialists, a group of which Kimberling is a part.
Through his many years of service, Kimberling has been an integral part of a number of research experiments. A couple of well-known patents include the KR Spay instrument and technique for spaying heifers and a liver biopsy instrument and technique for collecting liver biopsies from cattle and sheep.
More recently, Kimberling is proud of his work in developing the techniques and instruments to test the breeding soundness of rams and the work he has completed regarding the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) project.
"This crew (at CSU) has perfected the technique of collecting and evaluating rams as fine as anyone in the world," he says.
Kimberling has been a major addition to the sheep working group, an industry-wide group of individuals who make recommendations to the USDA for implementation of a national identification plan for sheep.
Speaking about his research on RFID (radio-frequency identification) implants for the NAIS, Greene says, "Dr. Kimberling jumped right into much-needed research in this area that is providing valuable information regarding the placement and retention of RFID implants. He has been actively involved in the sheep working group and an excellent resource."
Kimberling's crew consists of other researchers from CSU, along with the students.
"Whenever we have a unique experience, and we have a lot of them," jokes Kimberling, "we take a group of students with us. I try to impress on students that they will learn a lot more from a producer out there at chute site than in the classroom."
In order for the students to experience everything that happens on a sheep ranch, Kimberling takes a group of them on several week-long trips throughout the school year. On fall trips, they conduct fertility tests, during winter trips, they conduct ultrasound pregnancy diagnosis and in the spring, they experience lambing.
Geri Parsons, CSU certified veterinarian technician, who works with Kimberling says, "In these types of situations, students get a more practicable experience of veterinary medicine then they would see in the classroom."
One thing that has stayed consistent over the years for Kimberling is the joy he has had assisting the sheep industry and working with the producers.
"The neat part of this is that I have worked with producers from all over the state, all over the country and all over the world," says Kimberling. "That has been a lifetime of highlights."
In addition, Kimberling says that his career would not have been possible without his supportive and dedicated wife of 51 years.
Kimberling will be missed at CSU, but as Parsons expresses and others in the industry concur, they are grateful to have had a chance to work with Kimberling and have learned a great deal from him.