Tindall reflects on changes in long career as livestock veterinarian
STOCKTON — Dr. Ed Tindall has seen just about everything in his long career as a farm and animal veterinarian.
He’s even treated Siberian tigers at a small farm not far from where he’s located in Stockton.
Tindall was raised in Plainsboro and worked at Walker Gordon Dairy during his teenage years.
The sturdy 85-year-old retired veterinarian — his hearing still sharp and his speaking voice still loud and clear — was raised on raw milk.
He published a book about the dairy, “Walker Gordon: One of A Kind.” The former dairy, which made a successful national ad campaign out of “Elsie the Cow,” is now a housing development off Route 1 in Plainsboro. These days, Tindall looks after three horses on his own property and continues to make periodic talks in conjunction with his book.
“My dad was in charge of maintenance and all the barns at Walker Gordon,” Tindall told New Jersey Farmer on a cold day in late February.
“It was never in my plan to become a veterinarian,” he explained, but when he saw how corporate America was operating in the 1960s, he knew he’d be happier working for himself, treating farm animals, domestic pets and setting his own hours. After graduating from a good school system — Princeton High School — Tindall studied forestry at Paul Smith College in upstate New York and wildlife management at Rutgers. From Rutgers he went to the University of Delaware and studied entomology for his Masters’ degree and then went out to Ohio State.
“It was only after I finished my Masters’ degree that I decided to go to veterinary school; it was not a burning desire of mine.”
What motivated Tindall at that point?
“I loved school and I wanted to stay in school and I wasn’t sure if I should get a Ph.D. or a DVM and then in thinking about it, realized I had much more latitude with a DVM than I could have had with a Ph.D., there was a lot more opportunity. I could always work for myself with a DVM.”
Tindall worked for American Cyanamid for a year and then went to Ciba Pharmaceuticals in Three Bridges for two years, working at a research farm there.
He got out of Ohio State in 1965 with his DVM.
“I realized if I got fed up with industry and the corporate world I could go to work for myself which is what I ended up doing … there’s more politics than there is work. I got fed up with corporate America.”
He said the worlds of veterinary medicine and human medicine have changed drastically since the late 1960’s when he began his mobile veterinary practice out of his home in Stockton.
You could not specialize in livestock animals back then, he explained, “at that time, they felt if you got a degree in veterinary medicine, you had to be able to do everything; they did not encourage specialization.”
So Tindall studied everything at Ohio State and met his wife, Beverly, out there.
He has two sons, Chad and Caleb.
Chad is a veterinarian who practices in eastern Pennsylvania and west Jersey. He also has a daughter, Rebecca.
At Ohio State he learned how to treat common afflictions in horses, cows, pigs, sheep, goats, dogs, cats, and even exotic chickens and reptiles. One thing he learned little about: tigers.
“In the late 1970’s, there was a fellow over here in Rosemont who had six Siberian tigers,” he recalled of his former neighbor, Thane Clark.
“When the tigers were no longer cubs, he just kept them because he had money. When you have money, you can do these things.” Clark’s six tigers were in a large, fenced-in two acre tract on his spacious property. Tindall used to come in and vaccinate the animals each year, raised from the time they were cubs with humans.
“I would just walk in and vaccinate them. I was young and stupid. I used to take my kids in there. I got pictures of them somewhere, and as long as Thane Clark was there, no problems, he was their Alpha,” he recalled.
“Still, with a 600-pound animal, if it just swipes you lightly, you know it!”
Initially, Tindall used a truck and was a mobile veterinarian. He launched his business, Mobile Veterinary Services, in 1969. He had a small office in the building that housed his business in front of his house in Delaware Township, and a couple of kennels in the back.
“I would treat smaller animals at their homes and would do surgeries right at the house where I went to,” he said, noting “you can’t do that today, it’s too regulated.”
Aside from writing a book about Walker Gordon Dairy in his “retirement” years, Tindall edited an equine veterinary journal for a time and, working with three others, developed the first identification microchips to be embedded in farm animals.
He also pursues a myriad of interests these days in his office and shop: wood working, metal working, sculpture, carpentry, antique car and truck restorations.
“In 1978 and 1979, four of us developed, with an electronic engineer, the first identification chip that is now standard with animals for identification. We held the first patent but never made any money.”
There’s a lot of tragedies in any life, he argued, and some things are meant to be and some are not. The team consisted of Tindall, a professional photographer, an electrical engineer and a wealthier guy who backed the animal microchip ID tag concept.
“The electrical engineer was a genius and then there was me with the veterinary end of it and we got together and put together this microchip and then off we went to get our patent.”
Then what happened?
“We’re not sure exactly what happened,” he recalled, “but we know there was an individual in Colorado who paid no attention to the patent and went ahead with producing them. Where we got that information we’re not really sure; we had suspicions, but we’re not sure. At any rate it’s all water under the bridge now,” he said, “it’s a multi-million dollar industry today.”
Somebody in Colorado began mass producing these chips, he said, and then another individual bought their rights.
“We were called International Identification Incorporated, and I can’t think of his name now, but this individual bought our patent for a pittance and then they went into production. They were out of Ontario, California and of course now, pets with microchips are everywhere so they can all be returned to their owners.”
How has the business of being a livestock veterinarian changed over the years? Aside from the specialization for various animals like horses, cows, pigs and goats, Tindall argued there are no professions today.
The whole complexion of veterinary medicine and the whole complexion of medicine has changed, he said.
“Today, they call themselves professions but there are no professions; they’re all businesses, it’s all about the bottom line. All of them! I don’t care what it is — the clergy, medical doctors, hospitals — they’re all businesses. The only God this country has now is money. It doesn’t matter how you get it as long as you’ve got it,” he argued.
“When I went into being a veterinarian it was a beautiful profession. Today, I wouldn’t want any part of it. I wouldn’t want any part of medicine today.”