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Even though Dr. Seth Stowers, owner and operator of Hillside Veterinary Services has only been on the job since May 2018, his interest and love of the agriculture and livestock industry stretch back to his childhood.
“I got my start when I was about 5 years old and my grandpa gave me a calf for my 5th birthday,” Stowers said.
A lifelong resident of Dawson County, Stowers always wanted to be a vet, but was always wary of how much school pursuing a veterinary career would require.
“I always thought I wanted to go to vet school, but I never thought I could go to school for that long,” Stowers said. “I started going to North Georgia but they didn’t offer any agriculture classes, so I went there for my core classes and just got burned out. I just didn’t feel like it was for me and thought there was no way I could finish four years, much less an additional four.”
But the motivation for Stowers to commit to vet school came when one of his calves he suddenly got sick, and there was nothing he could do to help it.
“The first calf that I had on the farm was out of one of those three cows I bought and I had to pull it by myself, which was the first time I’d done that alone so I thought very highly of that calf,” Stowers said.
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“When he was about 4 months old he got a little sick and we didn’t know what it was so I called some local vets around and nobody was willing to come out to the farm, they said they only see dogs and cats and they wouldn’t come out to the farm.”
Despite getting medicine to administer to the calf himself, Stowers said that two days later the calf was dead. Without knowing what the calf had died from, Stowers was concerned about a disease spreading to the rest of his herd so he decided to take the calf to Athens for a necropsy.
“So kind of on the drive from here to Athens, I was just talking to the Lord and I said, ‘Lord, if you’ll let me get into vet school I’ll come back over here and I’ll take care of these farmers’,” Stowers said.
While he could have just as easily moved somewhere out west to be a vet on bigger farms and make more money, but Stowers knew his services were needed more back in his hometown.
“That was the conversation with the good Lord was that I’d come back and take care of the farmers around here,” Stowers said, “Because ultimately the farmers here didn’t have a lot of resources, so that was kind of what pushed me to come back here.”
Stowers’ said his favorite part about living in Dawson is its sense of community.
“I love the small-town feel, it’s not just that I know people my age but I know people a generation ahead of me and a generation below me too,” Stowers said. “I love just having that small-town feel where people are willing to help each other out, and the support that I get here makes me feel like I’m doing what I should be doing which feels really good.”
Another thing Stowers loves about Dawson is how so much of the county still feels rural, but with the addition of the 400 corridor there’s also easy access to stores and goods.
“It’s nice to have 400 access but also that this side of town, for the most part, has stayed agriculture,” Stowers said. “It’s pretty incredible to have so much of the county still agriculture but to also have access to goods close by.”
Stowers said that his favorite part about his job itself is the farmers he gets to work with.
“Whenever I go on a call, the farmers are always saying things like ‘what can I get you’ and ‘do you need something to drink’ or inviting me in for dinner,” Stowers said. “You’ll never get to work with a group of people that are more humble and giving than farmers are.”
One of the best parts about Stowers's job, he said, is to help advocate for farmers who are so often portrayed negatively.
“You see a lot of articles out in the news about antibiotic resistance and how poorly animals are treated, and I’m also an advocate for our farmers because I see how their animals are treated and it is not poorly,” Stowers said. “Yes there are videos out there of farms that do not treat their animals correctly, but the farmers that I work with on a daily basis do care for their animals well.”
The overall goal of his job, though, is to ensure the health of the animals.
“For a lot of the clients I work with, these animals are gonna go into the food chain at some point, so my ultimate goal is to ensure that we have healthy livestock entering the food chain,” Stowers said. “As a veterinarian, I take pride in it and it’s also part of my oath is to ensure the health of these animals. And ultimately I love beef, so I’m gonna make sure there’s plenty of beef for us to eat in the future.”