Veterinarian Shortage Felt Across Iowa

IOWA - Finding enough veterinarians to care for large animals is not just a problem for farmers. A veterinarian shortage could also have a major impact on the U.S. food supply.
calendar icon 8 February 2007
clock icon 3 minute read

In Iowa, it's estimated that the state will need 25 new veterinarians every year just to care for large animals. That might not seem like a large number, but the impact is greater than people might think.

Reliable veterinary care is something Eric Lyon doesn't take for granted. The Tama County farmer knows it's only going to get harder to find a vet to treat and care for his dairy cows.

"We're worried about the future and the availability of large animal vets knowing that the veterinarian school is also having trouble with these types of vets," Lyon said.

The problem is fewer vet medical students are choosing to specialize in the care of food supply animals, such as cattle and hogs. The reason often comes down to money.

"I think a lot of it's students' debt and tends to be more money in small animal medicine in the long run than large animal medicine and I think that's turning off a lot of people," said ISU veterinary medical student Jon Jenkins said.

ISU vet medical school professors said fewer and fewer students come from a rural background where they're exposed to large animals.

The college is working to give students that experience and show them that it can be just as lucrative.

"They perceive that people are more willing to spend money on companion animals," said ISU veterinary medical school professor Dr. Locke Karriker. "But in reality, you can really have a very rewarding career financially in food animal medicine."

The shortage is getting so bad that in some parts of the state, farmers typically must bring their animals to clinics rather than having veterinarians visit their farms.


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