Vet Shortages on the Farm

9 years 4 months 5 days ago May 24, 2007 May 24, 2007 Thursday, May 24 2007 Thursday, May 24, 2007 2:32:17 PM CDT in News

And that, in turn, has got veterinarians in big demand.

"I have never been this busy," Veterinarian Bob Barnett said.

Barnett has never been so busy in 36 years tending farm animals around Fulton.

"I'm getting calls from a long ways away. That mare in that stall is from Laddonia, that's not local," Barnett said.

And even though he loves his job, he can see why fewer veterinary school graduates want to mess with cows, pigs and horses. Barnett said the job is physically demanding, and sometimes, he gets kicked.

"It's a physically challenging position, its half-way dangerous-I've had several surgeries on my own body," Barnett said.

One Missouri veterinarian said demand for routine veterinary care may be decreasing. Better access to information, often found on the internet or phone hotlines, is encouraging some producers to treat their large animals at home. Sometimes it's difficult to find a veterinarian, due in part to so many veterinarians working in the city.

MU Associate Dean at the College of Veterinary Science, John Dodam, said the trend also reflects the population shift to urban areas.

"When you consider what's happening to the rural population in general, there's generally a move away from rural Missouri. Uh, consequently what's happening in veterinary medicine is pretty much a mirror of societal changes," Dodam said.

The average debt for a veterinary student is $100,000, so caring for poodles in town makes more financial sense.

Missouri lawmakers are also encouraging vets to become large animal veterinarians. The House and Senate each approved bills expanding eligibility for loan forgiveness for veterinarians who decide to work in rural areas.

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