Seasoned Veterinarian Has Been Doctoring for Decades

Winter 2021 Issue

Diana Scollard, DVM Shares Her Story

Diana Scollard’s dream of becoming a veterinarian began at the tender age of 6 when she watched her first C-section at her parents’ cattle ranch outside of Bozeman. Her fascination blossomed into reality when she attended school at MSU and later in Colorado, where she earned a doctorate in veterinary science.

When it came time to look for work, she found a position as a veterinary assistant in Absarokee and began a career that has spanned 40 years. 

From mentoring with respected vet Ray Lien in the early 1980s to owning her own veterinary clinic to being the primary vet at the Billings Livestock Commission, Diana pioneered a number of veterinary practices and had a very successful career in a male-dominated line of work.

“I never thought about not being able to do something,” Diana said as she reflected on her career from her home along the Stillwater River. “I might have had to prove myself in the beginning, but I was capable, clean and fast, so my reputation quickly became one of competence.”

A large-animal vet, Diana found a need in those early years of doing the pregnancy testing for the large cattle ranches that dotted Stillwater County. 

“Back then, there were only about 12 herds around here, but they represented over 15,000 cows among them,” Diana said. “Most ranchers were still using live bulls and birth weights were heavy, so in addition to preg testing, I did a lot of C-sections.” 

When the opportunity to purchase a veterinary clinic in Absarokee came up, Diana jumped on it and added small-animal care to her practice. 

“On the days when it was below zero and the wind was howling, I really liked taking care of cats in my warm office,” she laughed.

A few years later, when she decided to sell her practice, she found she could not give up practicing, so she started working a couple of days a week at the Billings Livestock Commission. A two-day-a-week job might sound like easy work, but it was hardly that. Diana would preg test all the cows coming in for the sales, which some weeks meant testing 500 to 1,000 cows. It was grueling work, and she often enlisted the help of her husband and two sons. 

“I took advantage of them, but they were good help,” she said. “Still, my sons to this day would say, ‘The origin of hell is the vet shack at BLS!’” 

Her husband, J.O. Miller, added that she fired him during one sale. They had tested 5,000 cows in six days. The crew was bone-tired, the cows ready to be finished. 

“The cows were backing me up as I tried to push them forward,” J.O. said. “I didn’t see the lariat rope tied across the alley in back of me and as I backed, I tripped over it and fell over backwards. Well, you can imagine just about how much of a mess 5,000 cows would make in six days. Next thing I knew I was making a snow angel in the pile of shit. But it didn’t end there, they took me to the vet shack and hosed me off.”

Supposedly the couple were exchanging words that matched their moods and Diana yelled that he was done. J.O. said that was a relief, but it seems the firing didn’t last. The next time Diana needed help, he showed up.

In those early days there were no computers used for tracking. Everything was done by hand. When the testing for brucellosis was required, Diana and her crew had to manually collect blood from the cow and take it to the lab to have a five-minute test run to determine if the cow was contagious or not.

All of the testing results and the health certificates for each animal had to be handwritten. Diana remembers bringing stacks of them home for her boys to help her fill out, sign and send. After the Livestock Commission, Diana worked for six years at Origen, a bull stud business located south of Billings, doing their international health certificates.

“It was nerve-wracking for sure,” Diana explained. “We had to manually keep track of their ear tags. In one transaction there were three different times we had to match numbers. Three different times we could mess up. You just can’t do that with hundreds of vials of semen. That was just one time that computers made work easier.”

After a successful career, Diana is content being home, though she stays busy. She spends her days working the ranch cattle, playing with her horses and dogs and helping her son build their farm-to-table business, selling their beef directly to consumers.

“I do like to stay busy,” Diana said. “It keeps me young!”


 

© 2020 Raised in the West Magazine