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Golden Valley Veterinary Clinic commits to the community and animal care with new state-of-the-art clinic

Dr. Nathan Kjelland and his wife, Britt Jacobson, opened an 11,000 square foot large and small animal clinic on the west edge of Park River, North Dakota, in January 2022.

A man in black coveralls stands next to a man wearing blue jeans, red shirt and black vest
Todd Nelson, left, an Emerado, North Dakota, farmer talks to Dr. Nathan Kjelland in the large animal section of Golden Valley Veterinary Clinic, on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022.
Ann Bailey / Agweek
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Editor's note: This is the first in an ongoing series on veterinary care in the region.

PARK RIVER, N.D. — Dr. Nathan Kjelland built Golden Valley Veterinary Clinic’s new animal hospital around a commitment to give quality care to creatures and a sense of responsibility to the rural communities he serves.

Kjelland and his wife, Britt Jacobson, opened an 11,000 square foot large and small animal clinic on the west edge of Park River in January 2022. The couple moved to the clinic from a rural location seven miles from Park River where Kjelland had been practicing since 2009, first as an employee at the clinic, then as its co-owner.

“Building this clinic has been scary, it’s been exciting,” Jacobson said. “The scary part about building is the complexity of a medical facility. There are so many pieces to it that aren’t part of a standard build.”

That includes equipping the clinic with multiple generators, some of which are for short-term power outages, and others for long-term outages and putting lead between the walls of the clinic’s imaging room and Jacobson’s office to ensure protection from radiation.

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One of the exciting aspects of the clinics is its benefit to the Park River community, Jacobson said. The clinic provides professional jobs in the city and also makes it a destination for people to come to Park River who might not otherwise.

Britt Jacobson, wearing an olive green sweater stands next to Dr. Nathan Kjelland, wearing a red shirt and gray vest.
Britt Jacobson and Dr. Nathan Kjelland, pictured at Golden Valley Vet Clinic on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022, opened their new state-of-the-art facility in Park River, North Dakota, earlier that month.
Ann Bailey / Agweek

“Those clients often stop elsewhere in town and spend money at those places, too,” she said.

“That is a huge addition to Park River, just the fact that it’s got a drawing from all over. They have a quality staff working there," said Dan Stenvold, Park River mayor. “It’s fantastic. I’m glad they chose Park River.”

The clinic in Park River has about five times the amount of space as the old clinic and will allow Kjelland, Dr. Casey Wollangk and future veterinarians to work safely and have more room to treat and, if necessary, house large and small animals.

The small animal section of the clinic features several animal exam rooms, separate quarters for housing dogs and cats, and surgery and dental rooms.

Meanwhile, the large animal area of the clinic has an overhead door so livestock owners can pull their trailers inside to unload their animals, a series of sturdy fences with gates that ensure the humans and animals are safe and a squeeze chute that tips onto its side,

The technology and equipment in the new clinic helps farmers and ranchers better take care of their livestock, said Karissa Daws, who owns Grassy Meadow Ranch , near Michigan, North Dakota, with her husband, Dave. Daw’s favorite feature at the clinic is the hydraulic squeeze chute.

“It’s so much safer for the cows as well as the employees, when you have a cow with a sore foot. It properly restrains them,” Daws said.

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Dr. Casey Wollangk, a veterinarian, dressed in a blue shirt and green coveralls, trims the hoof of a miniature Scottish Highland steer laying on its side in an hydraulic squeeze chute.
Dr. Casey Wollangk trims the hoof of a miniature Scottish Highland steer restrained in the hydraulic squeeze chute in Golden Valley Veterinary Clinic in Park River, North Dakota, on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022.
Ann Bailey / Agweek

The squeeze chute was on the “must” list of items that Kjelland made when he was planning the clinic.

“A chute like this not allows us to do things more safely, but it will help us attract veterinarians who are looking for mixed animals (practice) because they will feel this is something we can do safely,” Kjelland said.

The equipment in, and safety features of, the Golden Valley Veterinary Clinic’s large animal area not only will benefit its veterinarians, but also its clients and their clients’ livestock, Kjelland said.

“One of the big things we wanted to do with the new facility was to move those cows and not have to risk getting injured. Whenever you work with cows or horses — or dogs and cats — they’re unpredictable,” Kjelland said. “You’re encountering a lot of them when they’re worried about something, so letting us be able to do that safely was critical.”

The clinic also includes an obstetric chute which allows the clinic’s veterinarians and technicians to assist with large animal births.

“It’s easier to get up at 2 o’clock in the morning, if you’re inside and it’s well lit and heated, than if you’re in the back of a barn at 20 below,” he said.

The new clinic is “unbelievable,” said Dan Ryba, who operates an Angus cow-calf operation with his father, Joe. The Rybas have made several trips to the clinic this spring, and they appreciate the ability to drive inside the clinic to unload their cattle, he said.

“We’ve been taking animals to Golden Valley Vet since he (Kjelland) started his operation. We’ve had nothing but the best service, the best quality care,” Ryba said.

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The new clinic was designed not only with the safety features, equipment and technology that will assist Kjelland and Wollangk in giving large and small animals the best veterinary care possible, but also with the veterinarians the clinic hopes to recruit in mind.

Like nearly all veterinary clinics across the United States, Golden Valley would like to hire more veterinarians. The clinic serves clients in an 80-mile radius of the Park River that extends north to the Canadian border and south to Nelson County.

Kjelland and Wollangk are stretched to perform needed services to clients, including being on call for emergencies, Kjelland said.

“We need one at the absolute minimum," he said. "Casey (Wollangk) and I are really limited with what we can keep up with. It’s really stressful to think you don’t have the needs met for the things that happen during the day."

At the same time, Kjelland knows it’s important for the mental health of Wollangk, himself and the rest of the Golden Valley Veterinary Clinic staff to be able to take time off so they don't suffer burnout.

“Mental health is kind of a hot button issue in the veterinary community,” Kjelland said.

The addition of a veterinarian would benefit both the clients the clinics serve and help spread out the workload and alleviate Kelland’s and his staffs’ stress.

Kjelland has pursued several avenues of recruiting veterinarians, including advertising in state and national veterinary publications, making connections to students in veterinary colleges and listing his clinic’s opening at the colleges.

“Anything I can think of along those routes,” he said.

Attracting veterinarians to large animal practices is particularly challenging because veterinary schools encourage their students to develop specialties so they have expertise in certain areas, Kjelland said.

Kjelland, though, prefers the variety of patients he gets to see in his mixed practice.

“I love the fact that I get to work on a cat, and then I get to work on a dog, and then, I get to work on a horse, then I get to work on a cow, and then be working on something weird thrown in there,” Kjelland said. “Every day is just a little bit different, and it helps keep it interesting,”

Dr. Nathan Kjelland, wearing a red shirt and black vest, holds a brown and white cat  while a black cat crawls out of the kennel behind them.
Dr. Nathan Kjelland enjoys working with both small and large animals. Golden Valley Vet Clinic has separate kennels for cats and dogs.
Ann Bailey / Agwek

Kjelland’s love of the Park River community, where he grew up, is another reason he chose to have a mixed practice and why it’s worth it to him to invest in it with a new clinic.

He’s confident that, eventually, there will be more veterinarians working at Golden Valley Veterinary Clinic.

“I’m betting on the future. This is what I want to do and where I want to live, and I don’t think I’m the only one,” Kjelland said.

Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: abailey@agweek.com or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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