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Women’s History Month Spotlight: Dr. Racheal McKinney

Get to know Dr. Racheal McKinney who is a recipient of NIFA’s FY2021 Veterinary Services Grant Program – Rural Practice Enhancement. Dr. McKinney is a veterinarian at Urban Livestock and Equine Veterinary Services in San Tan Valley, Arizona.

A conversation with Racheal McKinney, DVM, Urban Livestock and Equine Veterinary Services LLC

In celebration of Women’s History Month, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is highlighting leading women helping advance agriculture-related sciences.

Photo of Racheal McKinney, courtesy of Racheal McKinney
Dr. Racheal McKinney is a recipient of NIFA’s FY2021 Veterinary Services Grant Program – Rural Practice Enhancement. Photo provided by Dr. McKinney.

Get to know Dr. Racheal McKinney who is a recipient of NIFA’s FY2021 Veterinary Services Grant Program – Rural Practice Enhancement. Dr. McKinney is a veterinarian at Urban Livestock and Equine Veterinary Services in San Tan Valley, Arizona.

Tell us your journey and how your interest in agriculture developed.

My interest in agriculture developed years before I even knew enough about agriculture to acknowledge that it was something that I was passionate about. When I was a young teenager, I surrounded myself with farm animals. My uncle had a farm that where I could help feed and take care of the animals at and, eventually, my family bought a two-acre property that became our own hobby farm. Throughout my teenage and high school years I challenged myself to raise all sorts of animals – from chickens and pigs to horses and goats. My family did a great job in encouraging me to research the species first, truly understand their needs and the husbandry required to own and raise such animals, and then helped to support me with every new challenge I set forth. 4-H became an important extracurricular for me, and I started training and showing my horse. When I entered high school, it was then that FFA was introduced to me. That is when the door leading to the agriculture industry truly opened for me. FFA broadened my understanding of agriculture, and over those next four years, I not only became an active member and officer, I competed on the local, state and national levels in competitions for parliamentary procedure, agriculture business marketing, agriculture interview, horse judging and agriculture sales. My passion and commitment to the agriculture industry developed and flourished during these years so much that, upon graduation, I represented the State FFA as the vice president, and I started my college education at Arizona State University focusing on agriculture business. 

What is your relationship with the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)?

I have had the privilege of working with NIFA for the past six years. I first became involved after graduating from veterinary school and learning about the Veterinary Medical Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP). I had just graduated, started my own mobile veterinary clinic and was focusing on helping farm animal species. I was one of only two practices in the Phoenix area treating species such as swine and ruminants. I loved being able to help the community that had been needing a veterinarian for so long, but the daily reminder of the student debt from veterinary school added a lot of pressure to my plate when comparing the salary for a farm animal mobile veterinarian to a small animal veterinarian. I applied for the VMLRP and was ecstatic when I was informed that I had received it. Since then, I have volunteered with NIFA to help where I can with getting more veterinarians in agriculture the opportunity to help pay off their student loans and to alleviate the stress and pressure that comes with being in the field with the cost associated with school and the career. This past year I was introduced to NIFA’s Veterinary Services Grant Program. This program offered the support needed for my practice to grow and offer our staff and as well as our clients and patients more services and opportunities. Being awarded this grant has allowed us to help so many more animals and will continue to do so over the next few years. The experiences I have had with NIFA are amazing, and the people who work within that community are some of the nicest, most caring individuals I have had the privilege of working with.  

Who are your role models? Who/what inspires you?

On a professional level, one of my biggest role models is Dr. Meredith Jones. I have had the privilege of watching Dr. Jones speak at conferences. I have participated in her continued education courses, and I have worked on difficult cases with her over the last couple of years. She is passionate about the agriculture industry and farm animal medicine. She saw a need in the veterinary community, and she has chosen to work hard to fill that need while helping anyone who is willing to learn. I can only imagine how busy she is daily, and yet she will always find time to talk on the phone or to respond to an email whenever I have reached out. The agriculture industry and the veterinary field needs more doctors like her. On a personal level, my family has always inspired me. They are the reason I am who I am today. They are the best part of everyday life and the ones who have supported me and pushed me to become the leader that I am in the field I have chosen. They inspire me to be the best version of myself that I can be. 

What advice would you give to girls and young women who want to enter agriculture? What advice do you have for fellow women in agriculture?

There are so many opportunities in the agriculture industry, from working with animals to operating businesses to teaching. The possibilities are endless, and the field truly is one that is amazing to work in. The support you will find in this community is unreal and one of the biggest reasons I am committed to agriculture. Being a woman in agriculture can come with its challenges, but there is absolutely nothing you cannot do and achieve if you set your mind to it. The resources are out there, but you must be willing to find them, work for them and hold on to them. Set your goals high, and don't stop until you get to where you want to be! 

Is there anything else you would like to add?

The best advice that I got when I was younger was to remember that you live in a fishbowl, and you never know who may or may not be watching you and learning from you. Choose how you act and behave with that idea in mind, and you should be golden! 

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