It’s a problem that grows larger with time as more and more production animal veterinarians retire, and there is not a new generation to replace them. In many portions of the Pacific Northwest, it can be difficult for farmers to get skilled vets willing to travel to their property to offer needed care.
Scott Leibsle, the Idaho state Veterinarian, said many young people decided to go the small animal route after graduating. He noted that new gradates face an enormous amount of debt, and working with production animals does not pay the way working in a small animal clinic does.
“Some people don’t want to move and take on $250,000 of debt to live in a town with a population of 1,500 people. The fact is small animal veterinarians can see 40-50 patients in a day because they drive to them, a large animal veterinarian has to drive from one facility, one farm or ranch to another.”
In an effort to address the problem nationally, NIFA has established the Veterinary Medical Loan Repayment Program. Participants will receive up to $25,000 annually to repay student debt, if they work in rural communities connected to the beef, dairy or poultry industries. Leibsle said it may be a good idea for rural, Ag heavy states like Idaho, Oregon, Montana and others to look at creating a state run program that incentives serving underrepresented areas.
“It has become a real problem. And I get phone calls all of the time from people who say ‘I can’t get a veterinarian that can come out and see my animals. And the next vet is 100 miles away, and I don’t know what to do.’ And it’s an issue that I think that needs to have some more attention brought to it. Departments of Agriculture in all the states we’re very aware of it, but I don’t know how much the general public is aware of the need.”
Click Here to learn more about the veterinarian program offered by NIFA.
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