By Katelyn Gradert, Minnesota Pork Board
The Minnesota Pork Board recognized Dr. Tim Loula, of Nicollet, as this year’s Distinguished Service Award recipient.
An enduring passion for pigs, hard work ethic, and determination to serve farmers well set the stage early on for Dr. Tim Loula’s legacy. Without his countless contributions, pork production today would likely look much different, for Loula has spent his career challenging the status quo and pushing farmers outside their comfort zone to be the best.
Passion for pigs
Growing up in Northfield, Loula spent his summers on a dairy farm working with family and a nearby farmer, along with riding alongside Dr. Roger Green, the local veterinarian, exposing him to all aspects of raising livestock. These experiences intensified his love of livestock, paving a natural progression to becoming a veterinarian.
Swine practice became his true passion after interacting with the late Dr. Al Leman. Loula traveled to farms and meetings with Leman while he was studying at the University of Minnesota, gaining an appreciation of herd health visits and being pushed to “think out of the box”, as Leman commonly encouraged. Loula carried his knowledge and passion to the Nicollet Vet Clinic after graduating in 1978, where his mission was to “develop the swine part” of the mixed animal practice.
While there, he learned how raising pigs indoors, multi-site production, and European genetics had the potential to change the U.S. swine industry. Loula’s love for swine practice became his focus and in 1991, he started the Swine Vet Center in St. Peter with his partner and colleague Dr. Paul Yeske. This practice has since grown to 15 exclusively swine veterinarians.
“Tim’s ability to quickly analyze problems and be able to sense the right direction to move forward, even without a lot of data behind the idea, was what helped propel our business forward,” stated Dr. Paul Yeske. “He is a great leader who challenges everyone around him to be their best and drive their own destiny.”
Loula’s wife of more than 40 years, Dr. Ruth Loula, declared, “Tim’s passion is and has always been teaching. Not so much in a classroom setting, rather out in the field and barns working with farm staff to raise pigs the best way possible.”
Tim has always been driven to continually learn to stay on top of his field to be “at least as smart” as his clients. He is known for being a self-learner and avid reader, talking with and learning from people both within and outside of the swine industry, constantly gaining knowledge and insight valuable to him, his clients, and family.
His teaching knows no bounds, as “he continues his teaching with our six grandchildren – the loves of his life,” described Ruth. “He takes them out to see newborn calves, feed the cows, work in our son’s wean-to-finish barn, and ride the 4-wheeler to check on crops, newly planted trees, and the pumpkin garden.”
Steve Langhorst, owner of Wakefield Pork, stated, “One of Tim’s greatest strengths is his ability to work on the slat level teaching entry-level caretakers production skills. His dedication to working with caretakers is paramount to the success he has had in the industry.”
Loula’s goal is to create relationships with staff members and engage them during his visits; he believes in the importance of making work in the barn fun, interesting, and rewarding. When he sees people learn and develop over time with more production and leadership skills, he feels a sense of pride, since he is always challenging others to keep improving.
“Tim has and always will be an incredible teacher. He takes people out of their comfort zone and helps them to think bigger, challenge their status quo, and encourages them to be the best, all while detailing why these steps are so important,” Yeske added.
Loula’s success within the industry can be widely acknowledged and appraised by any bystander simply by the list of accolades associated with his work. To this day, Loula has done consulting work in 34 U.S. states and 30 foreign countries. He has made countless contributions to eradicating diseases, being an early adapter of new technologies, leading world class production, and challenging farmers to think bigger and make the industry better.
However, his leadership and relationships built with farmers and veterinarians alike is what has made his legacy so paramount.
“Tim’s relationship with his clients and fellow vets, along with his drive to see them succeed is evident. He has an uncanny ability to understand how to motivate others and is excellent at finding what drives producers to be better, and how to challenge them when he sees an opportunity to grow,” Langhorst noted. “Tim always stresses that great benefits come from networking with others, and is famous for being in hallways having discussions many hours after meetings and conventions end. His passion to continuously learn from others and share his knowledge is very evident by his actions.”
Yeske described Tim’s relationship with producers as one of mutual respect. Loula’s philosophy is to meet the producers where they are most comfortable, build a personal relationship with them, and then provide them with a plan to help improve their operation. His presence is one of service, consistently seeking to understand and assist, always asking, “How can I help you today?”
Producers he has worked with over the years described how each person he comes in contact with has his full attention. His objective is to be present in the moment; “when he is with you, no one is more important than you at the time.”
Loula stated he has always prided himself, and urged all staff members of the vet clinic as well, to push clients to excellence.
“Tim is unapologetic in challenging clients that they can do better,” Yeske proclaimed.
He contributes much of his success to his clients, for their willingness to listen, change, and push themselves to be better is what has propelled the industry forward and made Minnesota production so successful. He feels his accomplishments have always been linked to the success of his clients.
One of Loula’s favorite sayings is, “Listen to the pig – do what’s right for the pig, and your clients will be successful. If your clients are successful, you will be successful.”
Pride for generational farms
Loula’s love for working with pigs is easily connected to his respect and passion for the family farmers of whom the pigs belong. In his early years, he established leadership and commitment to the development and growth of farms – both large and small – across the state which continued throughout his career.
“He has grown close to the families of many of his clients and feels a real sense of pride and accomplishment when younger generations come home to the farm,” Ruth said.
“Tim has worked with multiple generations of family farms and vet practitioners. No doubt his early contributions to these folks and farms have allowed other generations an opportunity to return to the farm,” stated Langhorst. “I would say he most looks forward to seeing upcoming generations succeed with world-leading production numbers.”
When asked what advice Loula would give to incoming generations, Yeske stated, “He would tell them to be good neighbors and make sure they are running responsible operations creating opportunities for themselves and for the greater world in abundant food supply.”
The 2021 Distinguished Service award winner, Dr. Tim Loula, is a tireless leader who helped shape pig farming as we know it. His contributions to the state of Minnesota and the rest of the country have benefitted pig farmers, veterinarians, and researchers significantly and will continue to do so with future generations to come.