Georgia in Battle Against Disappearing Vets

GEORGIA - The older generation of livestock veterinarians in the US are retiring at a rate of 4 per cent to 6 per cent annually. The University of Georgia is hoping to reverse this worrying trend with a new incentive programme.
calendar icon 3 October 2008
clock icon 3 minute read

They say that the incentive programme is helping draw the next generation into the declining field of food animal veterinarians.

Without food animal veterinarians to detect, manage and prevent diseases, “our first line of defense against outbreaks of diseases like foot-and-mouth is compromised,” said Dean Pringle, a CAES animal science professor.

Animal science major Jennifer Dalton of Carnesville, Georgia, tries her hand at evaluating pigs. The University of Georgia student is participating in UGA's food animal veterinary incentive program, which is designed to help stem the shortage of food animal veterinarians nationwide.
Photo: Stephanie Schupska/UGA

Foot-and-mouth disease is highly contagious and sometimes fatal, affecting mostly cattle, sheep and pigs. In 2001, an outbreak in Great Britain decimated the livestock industry and postponed general elections and sporting events.

The UGA food animal veterinary incentive program, which started in 2007, is an early admission program designed for Georgia high school students interested in this practice. So far, all of the allotted 10 slots in the program have been filled.

“Many schools, UGA included, decided that this issue was important, especially since we have a large number of food animal clients,” said Paige Carmichael, associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Food animal veterinarians work primarily with beef and dairy cows, pigs, sheep, goats and poultry.

But food animal medicine is not just about detecting diseases. These veterinarians also teach producers how to manage their animals, give them better ways to care for their flocks or herds and do background research to help ensure safe and affordable animal products continue to stock grocery store shelves.

“Not only are you impacting the health of an animal, you’re impacting the economic health of the people you’re working for,” Pringle said. “It’s exciting.”

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