Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Shortage of livestock veterinarians is growing

Rural America is short on large-animal veterinarians, and the deficit is growing. Just 17 percent of veterinarians nationwide work in food-animal medicine, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, and that percentage is expected to fall to 12 or 13 percent by 2016, reports Walker Moskop of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. (Strib photo by Richard Sennott: Food-animal vet student Joe Armstrong)

AVMA President Rene Carlson told  the shortage is partly the result of too many students entering the pet-care field. She also said "simple economics" is a factor. Some rural areas don't have enough large animals to make a clinic pay, especially when considering student loan debt for vet school. Food-animal vet work can be demanding, Moskop reports. Many are on call nights and weekends, and have to cover a lot of territory. The shortage has gotten so bad in some areas that rural vets that have reached retirement age have to keep working so their community will have a veterinarian.

University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine professor John Fetrow told Moskop the demanding hours, low pay and less-than-ideal working conditions often forces those who start their careers as food animal vets to switch to pet care. The university is offering an accelerated program that allows students to earn their bachelor's and doctoral degrees in seven years, a year early, to entice more students to take the food animal path. Graduates are also offered up to $25,000 a year if they work in a rural area. But, budget cuts this year could threaten incentives for students. North Dakota is offering a similar loan repayment program to veterinary graduates, and Alaska will allow out-of-state vets to practice free of charge in rural areas of the state without veterinarians. (Read more)

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