Longtime veterinarian Coots retiring at year's end

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By Walt Reichert

When veterinarian James Coots first started pulling calves in the county, his fee to the farmer would run $9 or $10 assuming there were no complications.

That was in 1968.

Now, after more than 40 years in practice, Coots is retiring. His last day at Shelby Veterinary Clinic will be Dec. 31.

Coots, who specializes in large-animal practice, said the time has come to slow down.

"In large-animal practice you have to get out of the way sometimes," Coots said. "And I don't get out of the way as fast as I used to."

Coots, a native of Charlestown, Ind., earned his DVM from Purdue University. He wanted to work with dairy cattle, so naturally he headed to Wisconsin. He didn't stay long.

"I got tired of six months of winter," he said.

His uncle, J. L. Coots, a local dairy farmer, banker and auctioneer, encouraged him to come to Shelby County, where dairy was still big business.

The county had more than 600 dairies when Coots joined Shelby Veterinary Clinic 40 years ago. Today the county has fewer than 30 dairies, but the clinic also serves farmers and animal owners in all of the surrounding counties.

These days, Coots still tends to the remaining dairy farms but also serves a large number of small- animal clients as well as owners of beef cattle, alpacas, llamas and horses.

When he retires, large- animal duties at the clinic will be handled by Drs. Melissa Lipps and Rocky Oliver. Dr. Stephen Burchett specializes in small-animal veterinary at the clinic.

Coots' daughter, Becky Gordon, is the office manager. Coots and his wife have two other children. They live in Shelbyville.

After he retires, Coots said he may still fill in occasionally, taking care of small animals when Burchett is not in the office. Otherwise, he plans to do the typical retirement duties.

"I've had to say no in the past to people who have asked me to play golf or fish or help out more around the church," Coots said. "Now maybe I can say yes."

Coots said he may also help his brother, who has a grain farm in Indiana.

Dr. Jack Kimbrough, who worked with Coots for 30 years, called him a good worker and a "straight arrow."

"He was a good partner," Kimbrough said. "And I think that's one of the best things you can say about anybody."