Rural, large-animal veterinarians are on the decline. At least one state (Oklahoma) is considering legislation that would provide tax incentives for large-animal veterinarians. Missouri already has a Large Animal Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program, which legislators are trying to expand. North Dakota is considering a similar program.
The current issue of DVM (Vol. 38, no. 3, March 2007) has a front-page story on the response of the USDA to the “rural vet crisis,” including claims that the agency “fails to take NVSMA [the National Veterinary Services Medical Act] seriously.” NVSMA, which became law in 2005, was supposed to be in place last year.
The pressure to jumpstart NVMSA stems from the profession’s migration toward small animal practice, which leaves large animal sectors scarce of DVMs and public health and food safety segments not far behind. NVMSA is an attempt to allay a crisis that, in extreme cases, forces owners to treat and euthanize their own animals in DVM-deficient rural areas and hinders bioterrorism safety when veterinarians’ disease expertise acts as a first-line defense.
Rural large-animal vets might be on the decline, but catmanager can’t find evidence of jobs going unfilled. A scan of the help wanted ads in the current JAVMA (Vol. 230, No. 7, 1 April 2007) reveals only three large animal openings and thirty-seven mixed animal openings across the United States. (The number of large- and mixed-animals jobs is dwarfed by the small animal jobs. Virginia alone has more small animal openings than there are large- and mixed-animal openings in the entire United States.) Catmanager wonders if the problem of rural and large-animal DVMs doesn’t have more to do with the poor economics of large-animal practices (at least relative to small animal practice).
Wonder what a day during calving season is like for a large animal vet? Here’s a nice story from Canada’s Leader-Post about a day spent with a large-animal rural vet. The reporter tags along as the vet delivers calves, repairs a prolapsed uterus, conducts a necropsy on a feed-lot cow, and opines about his colostrum research. [Update: Milwaukee’s Journal-Sentinel also has a profile of a large-animal vet.]