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Meet Idaho's State Veterinarian


“My name is Dr. Scott Leibsle and I’m the state Veterinarian and administrator of the division of Animal Industries at the Idaho State Department of Agriculture,” said Dr. Scott Leibsle.

Dr. Scott Leibsle graduated from the University of Wisconsin, and his first practice was in Idaho’s Wood River Valley.

“And then I went back to practice dairy and equine in Wisconsin for 5 years and this job came open, I was looking for a change.

When I got here certainly Idaho has become my home. I started a family here and it’s been such a pleasure to expand what the possibilities of what my career could have been. But how I think how I made it out here is I moved to Idaho once and liked it so I though I’d move back. But the Department of Agriculture and the people that are here that make the Dept of Ag and really that support the livestock industry is why I stayed.”

That was back in 2011. Now it’s been almost a year since he became the state veterinarian after the retirement of Dr. Bill Barton in January.

“The job of the state veterinarian, I think, is very broad, and it really can change on a regular basis. But in large part, the livestock industry, to be able to grow and sell your livestock to maintain a food supply is a big part of this job. And disease surveillance; so having regular testing for brucellosis, tuberculosis, any type of the follow up that goes along with animals that are flagged as suspect is done through regulatory veterinarians such as myself. And in addition to the dairy programs, the inspections, the sanitation of the dairy industry and the inspections that go along with those is in large part just trying to make sure the various industries that are generated through owning a livestock business are safe, viable, can participate in interstate commerce. A lot of my job involves outreach and education, but a portion of my job is also regulation. So we have to hold people or businesses accountable to the rules, but for the most part we try to do our best to educate people to follow the rules rather than having to admonish them for not following them on the back end,” said Leibsle.

Dairy and beef are Idaho’s largest agricultural industries. Idaho dairy alone is a two billion dollar a year business, and Idaho ranks third among U.S. states for dairy production.

That’s a lot of animals to test for disease and keep track of, so three years ago they transitioned from a paper system that used the mail, to an electronic Animal Disease Traceability Program.

“So this is the portal that the practicing veterinarians will log into and submit all of their regulatory documents,” said Leibsle.

“So with the previous system that was in place it was all paper based. We would have to go through file cabinet after file cabinet to try and find a movement document or a testing document to understand and learn where an animal’s been, when was it there and how many different animals have potentially been exposed to it. So we were fortunate in 2018 we received an allocation from the Idaho legislature in conjunction with the Brand Broad, and each of our agencies built an electronic database to manage that. So now what would’ve taken days or weeks to identify the relevant documents to prove where an animal’s been and when, we can do that now in a manner of seconds.”

“We can look at different reports like where’s the majority of the trich testing being done. That’s this graph up here, by county…”

“I do want to make sure I remind anyone that all of this data is secured and protected. This is not made available to anyone outside of the agency.”

Leibsle says they often work with the livestock industry.

 “We’ve got the oldest Trich program in the county. The cattle industry came to the Department of Ag 30 years ago and said we’ve got a problem with this disease. 

We established a mandatory trich testing program, the disease is trichomoniasis and the fact that we had 29,000 tests conducted last year and we identified 1 positive out of that, that’s a very successful program, and so I think that’s where the industry working cooperatively the regulatory agency like ISDA can produce a very favorable result. And so we don’t have a problem with trich here in Idaho. Other states do that don’t have the same type of program that was put in place. But we’re very proud of that and the industry support behind that is what yielded such a positive result.”

He and his division also oversee some animals you might not expect.

“Captive elk is one, that people don’t necessarily think. In other states they call them alternative livestock. So that’s one species, it’s a pretty sizable industry that we regulate.

Deleterious exotic animals is another program that we do regulate, so whether it’s lions or tigers they have to have a possession permit through this agency. Other species of animals… there’s a whole list of animals like primates that are included on that list as well.”

Leibsle says one positive thing he’s seen as a result of the pandemic is adopting remote meetings for the rulemaking process, allowing broader participation from stakeholders around the state that no longer have to make the trip to Boise to participate.

“Boise’s a long way from a lot of places in Idaho but that doesn’t mean we value the producers that are in those parts of the state any less, and so the fact that we have gotten the added participation through the virtual platform that we’ve had, I think has been great.”

“It’s a very rewarding job, I think the interplay that we have with the various livestock industries and the producers… it’s great to be able to get out and meet the different people that make Idaho’s livestock industry great.   

I think we have a wonderfully diverse agricultural community, and I’m very happy to be a part of it.”

For the voice of Idaho agriculture, I’m Paul Boehlke.