At first glance, ongoing consolidation in the swine industry suggests an abundance of swine veterinarians, right? Wrong. When you add retiring baby boomer veterinarians and the graduation of fewer numbers of food animal veterinarians into the equation -- the result is a real shortage of swine
A quick look at American Association of Swine Veterinarian (AASV) membership numbers reinforces this trend. U. S. membership in 1995 stood at 1,400. In 2000, that number was 1,148. The latest figures for 2006 show an 11-year low of 857.
According to Pat Halbur, DVM, PhD, chair of the department of diagnostic and production animal medicine at Iowa State University (ISU), a recent survey shows that Iowa alone needs at least 150 new food animal veterinarians over the next five years.
“When we're graduating 20 percent food animal veterinarians out of a class of 100, it’s pretty easy to see we're not meeting demand,” observes Halbur.
Several veterinary colleges, including Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and North Carolina, have implemented systems to identify students with agricultural backgrounds or interest in food animal production early in their Bachelor of Science programs.
These systems can provide early acceptance into the veterinary college, dual mentoring programs and early exposure to food animal production systems. "We're basically looking for ways to reward food animal students," points out Larry Firkins, DVM, MBA, assistant dean for public engagement, University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine.
For instance, North Carolina State University's (NCSU) College of Veterinary Medicine has a food animal scholars program designed to attract more students to food animal veterinary medicine. Students are selected for the scholars program in their sophomore undergraduate year, receive mentoring from faculty at both the College of Agriculture and the College of Veterinary Medicine, and are guaranteed admission to the veterinary college as long as they meet the minimal grade point average requirements.
Once admitted they must remain in the food animal curriculum, explains David Bristol, DVM, associate dean and director, academic affairs for NCSU College of Veterinary Medicine.
Meanwhile, Michigan State Univer-sity recently revealed a new educa-tional option within the Department of Animal Science designed to prepare students for a career in herd-based production medicine and agricultural veterinary practice.
According to Pat Halbur, DVM, PhD, a recent survey shows that