What Happened to the Rural Large Animal Veterinarians?

A Critical Shortage

Rural Arizona Ranch, Photo by Dan

The American Veterinary Medicine Association lists more than 90,000 veterinarians in practice in 2010. Sounds like a lot until that number is broken down into types of practice.

Of that 90,000 only 1.8 percent are exclusive to food animals, 6.3% predominately work with food animals, and 7% work a mixed animal practice. What exactly does this mean? About 70% of the U.S. private-practice veterinarians exclusively treat companion, or small animals.

A shortage of large-animal veterinarians should be considered serious, especially when it quite possibly could jeopardize the nation’s food supply. It’s imperative that in every community there is somebody who recognizes emerging diseases.
Nationally, there’s one veterinarian for every 3,500 animals on average, Arizona has one veterinarian per 4,100 animals, and several counties have none.
Midwestern University, a nonprofit health care-focused institution in Arizona, plans to launch a veterinary medicine program in 2014.  I certainly can’t argue the fact that there is a significant demand for veterinarians. But whether or not a veterinary medicine program here in Arizona will alleviate our shortage of large animal veterinarians is anybody’s guess.
A large animal practice is a tough dirty job, travel is a certainty, and few young vets are willing to make the many sacrifices. Rural America is shrinking, and it won’t take them long to figure out that urban small animal clinics are going to bring in the bigger paycheck.
Time will tell,  but for now, I’m figuring my chances of getting a farm doc to my small ranch for an unscheduled visit is close to never.

amy elizabeth, TBN Ranch


About tbnranch

amy elizabeth, writer, author, antique dealer. Lives in the northeastern reaches of the Sonoran Desert on a small hobby farm.
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5 Responses to What Happened to the Rural Large Animal Veterinarians?

  1. tbnranch says:

    Yes, I ‘d have to haul for an emergency too. But I’m lucky it’s just the next town north. Before I bought my trailer there was no way to get my horses immediate help. I do have a vet, he returns my calls, and has been able to talk me through medical situations. I’m grateful for that!

  2. cowgirliz says:

    There is a mixed practice here in town. Very nice people, but it seems in an emergency with a horse their first question is “do you want us to come put him down?” More than a few folks locally have been put off by that. There are good vets that come to town, about once a month. They are great for scheduled things. For emergencies? I’m looking at hauling at least two and half hours to get a horse taken care of. Yes I have a well stocked medicine cabinet, but not everything can be handled by drugs.
    The issue with vets specializing in food animals is alarming. I was looking into some info on vet school and found where there are scholarships available for prospective students planning to go work in that field.
    Personally, I know when I talk to kids who say they want to be vets… I tell them the money is in the small animal practices. If they want to do horses, I tell them they are crazy. I specifically did not pursue vet school because I did not want to deal with emergency calls at 3:00 am in the morning. the equine vets that I know who do make good money structure their practices so they don’t have to deal with all the garbage.
    I’m kind of surprised the vet school isn’t going in to ASU or Uof A…

  3. Like the General practitioner in human medicine being a large animal vet just doesn’t pay as well. In the time it takes to drive out, see a horse, cow, bull, whatever and return, the vet could have seen 6 dogs, 3 cats and a turtle at $75 apiece. ($750) He may have made $350 on the horse. And, he never had to drive anywhere. I can’t even find a vet who see rabbits! (even though they advertise small animal clinic). Dogs and cats (pets) bring in the bucks.
    I think it’s going to revert to taking matters (vet medicine) into your own hands like in the old days when it comes to large animals. Sorry kiddo, it’s all about the money.

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