DR. Rich Vanderwal

Who is Rich Vanderwal?

Rich Vanderwal is an experienced food animal veterinarian whose interest in supporting dairy farmers with production medicine programs and strategies has been forefront in his 45-year veterinary career.  During that time, he has also focussed on integrating advanced reproductive technologies to achieve accelerated genetic progress.

Rich was raised in Langley B.C. on the family dairy farm and was involved in the work and workings of the farm growing up.  The family was milking 100 cows when Rich attended the University of British Columbia and then the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, graduating with Honors in 1977.  In 1975, the family farm moved to Abbotsford, B.C. and steadily expanded as the years went on.

In 1977, Dr. Vanderwal moved back to the family farm after university and began to provide veterinary services to the dairy community in the central Fraser Valley from that base.  His focus on production medicine was new to the industry, shaped by Dr. Otto Radostits, a respected college professor who instilled the values of preventative medicine and directing initiatives to maximize herd health rather than focus on animals only after they became clinically sick.  This began primarily with reproductive work as Rich focused on getting cows healthy to achieve pregnancy by promoting regular herd visits to identify challenges and solutions before, they became unprofitable to solve.  This also generated a Record-Organize-Analyze-Decisions model that began with reproductive parameters and guided dairy farmers to measure cow and herd data so that they could manage more effectively.  He promoted and was involved with first use of computers on farms in the 1980s, an initiative he actively pursued in teaming up with Liz Noordam to design an effect software that was essential to the management process on dairies.

This was the same time that he combined resources with Dr. Lon Goodale to manage the Abbotsford Veterinary Clinic team from 1990 on.  Liz Noordam became both office manager and software designer since then to provide dairy farmers with resource support as they needed.

The family farm also had an interest in registered Holsteins, and their Cedarwal Holstein identity was distinctive in Holsteins circles at that time for their emphasis on production as a primary goal with supporting conformation as a secondary goal.  The desire to maximize the number of offspring from the best cows led to Rich’s interest in embryo transfer technologies, and he travelled to Ontario, Illinois and Colorado to learn from early pioneers in the beginnings of the science and nonsurgical techniques, including the first embryo freezing initiatives.  In addition to the herd health visits, this became a veterinary business initiative to learn these techniques, often using the home farm and herd as his practice donors and recipients.

Cedarwal Holsteins has gone on to be awarded two Master Breeder shields in 1993 and 2000 and is an Honorary Life Member.  They continue to contribute to Holstein breed genetic progress through the sales of foundation females to other herds, superior sires to A.I. centers, and the export of thousands of embryos internationally.

The Abbotsford Veterinary Clinic continues its strong record of service to the dairy industry.  Competent veterinarians and caring staff have supported strong initiatives in dairy production medicine, animal welfare programs, and herd disease control strategies.  Research highlights include extensive research on Neospora abortions, udder health initiatives with robotic milkers and many steps of embryo sexing, cryopreservation and in vitro embryo production systems.  In addition to Rich receiving the Western Canadian Association of Bovine Practitioners Veterinarian of the year award, he and other team members serve the veterinary and dairy industries by volunteering in leadership roles.  The veterinary team also consistently supports youth agricultural programs (4H and others) with teaching time and mentorship commitments.  Rich may be the senior advisor on the veterinary team, but his pride is the strong team of young professionals that support the agricultural community in their area.