Lack of Veterinary Care for Rural Animals Could Impact Our Health

By: Candace Sweat Email
By: Candace Sweat Email

A recent report says there's a growing need for veterinarians in rural areas.

This basically means much of the food that ends up on our dinner plates may not be getting the proper care.

It seems like no matter where you are in the U.S. you'll find a reliable veterinarian to take care of your four-legged family member.

But what about the the animals that go from the pasture to your plate?

Experts at Florida A & M University's Veterinarian Technology program train their students to treat large animals. Animals that are a part of our daily diets, and could end up in our local markets.

"I work a lot with the youth and If you ask them where a steak comes from they say the grocery store, when that's not true. It starts way before that."

Right now there are nearly 30 veterinary schools nationwide. And some say a majority of their graduates plan on treating small animals. What about the others?

"When we talk about rural medicine typically we're talking about live stock or food animals. Vets are on the front line as far as protecting our food supply," says FAMU Director of Animal Health, Eric Peterson.

According to a report done by the American Veterinary Medical Association in 2008, Leon County has nearly 3 thousand food animals. And just one Food animal veterinarian.

Jefferson County has nearly 14 thousand food animals, and just five veterinarians. That means more than 2 thousand animals per vet.

In Suwannee County, there's nearly 63 thousand food animals. And how many food animal vets? Just three. That means each one of them is responsible for more than 20 thousand animals each.

"It's the food that we need to eat everyday. A healthy animal makes a healthy human," says FAMU Veterinary Technology Liaison, Lia McWhorter.

FAMU Currently has 12 students in its program. That means 12 more students prepared to maintain healthy farm animals, and ultimately the health of those sitting around our dinner table

FAMU says even though they have only twelve students in the vet tech program now, the program is fairly new, and they expect to have up to 25 by the next academic year.

Congress passed a Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program. It's designed to assist veterinarians willing to work in rural communities.

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  • by Jennifer Location: Fl on Feb 22, 2010 at 01:04 PM
    Beef producers do not want to pay to have a vet take care of their herds. You can not make a living doing the occasional cow emergency. If rural medicine produced a steady income for a vet then this would not be a problem. The drug companies sell all their products directly to cattlemen who may or may not know how to properly use them which bypasses any vet involvement. This problem was created because these same people never routinely used a vet and now they are upset because no one is around to do their emergencies. I know this because of personal experience... I'm now a small animal vet.
  • by Anne Feary Location: Georgetown, TX on Feb 22, 2010 at 10:32 AM
    Physicians saw the wisdom of training physicians assistants/nurse practitioners. Why are veterinarians so opposed to a comparable position within the veterinary community? Many states do not allow equine dentists, who are often much better trained than vets, to attend to horses teeth or allow it only if the dentist is under the direct supervision of a vet. Yet most vets are not willing to invest the time to become expert at floating. If vet students don't want to go into food animal practice, have appropriately trained techs do the work.
  • by eric Location: Rural, Maryland on Feb 22, 2010 at 09:34 AM
    I am a food animal vet. And I encourage anyone interested in vet medicine to consider a this as a career. The food animal vet shortage is nation wide. The solution will be multi-pronged. There is no easy fix. Increasing the training of technicians is a good start. The post that vet care increases the cost of the steak presupposes that appropriate vet care costs money than it makes. In reality, food animal medicine is more consulting than necessarily treating. Yes, if Gene called a vet to treat each sick animal every time,he would lose money. On the other hand, if Gene enlisted a food animal vet for herd health, bull testing, preg checking, nutritional guidance, current techniques, and more, both he and his vet would be dollars ahead. Of course, that is what the technician and producer training is meant to do. And Hank if you don't like red meat don't eat it. For those that do, your meat deliciously free of added hormone and antibiotic residue so please enjoy your steak.
  • by Chris on Feb 22, 2010 at 08:27 AM
    This article mixes up what a veterinarian can do and what a veterinary technician is allowed to do. A veterinary technician can NOT practice medicine. They can not prescribe drugs. They can only act under the supervision of a veterinarian. Unfortunately, more vet techs will not help the problem of not enough rural vets.
  • by Gene Location: Rural on Feb 20, 2010 at 07:27 AM
    What the "experts" fail to take into account is that most if not all food animal producers do there own vet care otherwise that steak would cost three times what it does.
  • by Hank Location: Tallahassee on Feb 20, 2010 at 05:37 AM
    Another good reason to stop eating red meat! These cows are injected with growth hormones and antibiotics and then we eat all of that. YUCK!!!
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