For the last few years, there's been discussion within the agriculture community about a shortage of food animal veterinarians and finding solutions to help generate interest in the profession. Since then enrollments in many veterinary schools are up, but an American Association of Bovine Practioners' committee report says there actually is not a shortage of food animal veterinarians, but rather an issue of rural economies being able to sustain large animal practices.
Since the first reports on the shortage of food animal veterinarians, the economy has taken a downturn, including serious financial losses in the dairy segment, shrinking herd sizes and agriculture in general continuing to consolidate, explains Christine Navarre, Louisiana State University Extension veterinarian and AABP president. And some graduates are finding it difficult to find jobs.
"With the changing economy, the job market in general is tough," she explains. "This report served as a reality check, and found that there are pockets of under served rural areas but not necessarily a shortage of veterinarians to fill those needs."
The problem is that those under served rural areas are not able to sustain a veterinary practice. She explains it's similar to rural issues with human healthcare, and requires some examination of alternative solutions to serving those communities rather than flooding the food-animal veterinary field with qualified graduates and limited job openings.
To address the issue of providing veterinary care in under served rural areas, the AABP has set up three new subcommittees that will:
- Identify alternative and sustainable business models in rural areas.
- Develop tools to help veterinarians hone business skills.
- Look at the role of veterinary technicians to fill this gap.