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