Friday, June 25, 2010

Vanishing Veterinarians

I shouldn't have been so surprised to learn that the same trends I've seen in plant ag research are going on over in the veterinary buildings.

I hear that the famous vet schools are all replacing their large animal vets with medical mouse scientists as rapidly as they can get the old dudes to retire. We still have a big chicken research center here in Upstate NY, thanks to the influence of the professor who invented the nugget, but apparently the only other remaining U.S. poultry programs are in Arkansas and Delaware. I guess all the ag schools are fighting to climb aboard the NIH's cancer train. And I suppose no sensible student is willing to spend one or two hundred thousand dollars to learn how to birth calves in the middle of the night...

All the students here just want to take care of companion animals and exotics - and who can blame them? Being a large animal vet is a dangerous and increasingly lonely profession. Crawling through stalls with 1000 lb animals was bad enough before our rural counties emptied out and all the farms consolidated. I'd assume past generations of vets were much more likely to have assistants and to see multiple farms (and talk to multiple farmers) each day than their modern counterparts. I've heard that some states (e.g. New Hampshire and Vermont) are now even paying for students to go to vet school if they agree to work as a large animal vet for 10 years.

Does anyone know anything about this? Are small farms having a hard time finding veterinary help? Are large industrial operations training their own docs or changing how they manage livestock health to avoid individual care?

2 comments:

  1. I live in Eastern Kentucky. I wouldn't exactly say its "farm country" but a lot of people here still raise their own cows and plenty have horses. The vet we used to take our dogs to had a sign in his office about making farm visits, for emergencies (24/7) AND checkups. He takes care of three neighboring counties. The farmers here are very lucky to have him. When he retires though, I don't know if anyone will take it up.

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  2. California seems to have a shortage as well - but the UC seems to have more interest in admitting students who have an interest in large animal vet science to make up this gap- even if they dont have a 3.9/4.0 GPA or greater. Probably because 95% of the applicants want to do small animals and exotics.

    Most large cattle operations (I am talking big operations) will have a vet on staff. Definitely a job for large animal vets even in this poor economy.

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