Only 2 percent of veterinary school graduates in 2010 plan to work mostly with large animals, like cows, horses and swine, according a survey conducted by the American Veterinary Medical Association. An additional 7 percent studied a mixed curriculum that included all types of animals.
The statistics portend a shortage of large animal veterinarians and increased food safety risk because large-animal veterinarians serve as inspectors at ranches and slaughterhouses, said an Associated Press article about the survey.
"We have known for years anecdotally that (large animal) vets were having a difficult time finding people to work at their practice or selling it when they retire," AVMA spokesman David Kirkpatrick told the reporter. "But now we know how big the problem is and how that will magnify over the years."
At the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, applicants interested in becoming farm-animal vets have an admissions edge, the AP article said. UC Davis has slowly boosted the number of students interested in large-animal medicine to 11 students out of 127, double the number from four years ago. The vet school has also reached out to high schools in rural areas.
More than a dozen states offer some type of loan repayment program or other incentives if students pledge to work in a region in need of large-animal vets. Vet students typically finish school with about $134,000 in debt, according to the AVMA.
Today, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture announced in a news release that it will offer nearly $6 million to repay the veterinary school loans of 62 rural veterinarians. The recipients are required to commit to three years of veterinary service in a designated veterinary shortage area.
The Visalia Times-Delta ran a commentary on Saturday jointly written by the dean of the UC Davis Department of Veterinary Science Bennie Osborne and the director of the UC Veterinary Teaching and Research Center in Tulare James Cullor turning today's decision on Proposition 2 over to the voters.
The article noted that various UC Davis scientists have taken public positions on the proposition, both in favor and against, but that the University of California is neutral.
The School of Veterinary Medicine, the article said, is part of the nation's proud tradition of Land Grant Colleges and Universities.
"We are committed to generating and disseminating science-based information on all issues related to animal welfare, animal health, food safety and the role of animals in society," Cullor and Osborne wrote.
The University, they assured, will continue to foster discussion and research to establish the best animal health care and welfare strategies science can offer.
Following a long holiday weekend, there are a few ANR news stories to catch up on:
Last week, the Sacramento Bee ran an article about a price increase for another food commodity: eggs. The story, written by Jim Downing, says wholesale egg prices have shot up 27 percent since mid-May.
The story quoted UC Davis Cooperative Extension specialist emeritus Don Bell. He told the reporter that a sizable shipment of eggs last month to Japan and Iraq apparently tightened domestic supplies, driving prices up.
The Sacramento Bee today ran a story about a side effect of this year's dry spring: numerous dry fox tail weeds. The article, written by Blair Anthony Robertson, says barbed, missle-shaped, waxy tips of wild grass are annoying to humans, and dangerous to animals.
UC Davis Cooperative Extension veterinarian John Maas commented in the article about the fox tails' hazard to cattle.
"Oh, man, they are the bane of our existence," he is quoted. "The cattle have fur around their face and eyes, and they get those darn foxtails around their eyes. Oftentimes, they get into their eyes. It can cause quite a bit of damage. It can cause blindness."
Finally, a column by Ramona Frances for the Madera Tribune lamented society's lack of respect for farmers. She was commenting on an article in Grower Magazine by Vicky Boyd that suggested the baby boomer and previous generations more often than not considered farmers hard workers and essential contributors, but the younger generations do not share those attitudes. (The Tribune column cited the Grower commentary, but I couldn't find it on the Web site.)
Frances included perspective from Madera County UCCE director Neil McDougald. According to the article, he believes everyone in agriculture has a responsibility to educate others about it.
"The 4-H program we have right now is one that reaches out to youth in all generations," he is quoted.