The cause of the shortages in food animal/production veterinarians is multifactorial, and while little can be done to change some of those causes, numerous actions have been taken to address the current shortage of veterinarians, according to D.G. Bristol of North Carolina State University.
Bristol, who spoke during JAM 2011, explained that the availability of adequate veterinary care is essential because when an owner of a sick or injured animal cannot obtain access to prompt veterinary care for that animal, a serious welfare issue can be created.
According to Brisol, survey data collected in 2006 and published by the American Veterinary Medical Assn. has indicated that only 10% of all veterinarians practice on food animals.
A survey by Lenarduzz et al. (2009) showed that contact with food animal practitioners during vet school was a factor in motivating a career choice in large animal practice.
Experience with agriculture may encourage students to consider large animal practice, agreed Bristol but he noted it is also the traditional things that attract students to the field, such as time for family, good benefits, flexibility, etc.
Bristol noted that some veterinary colleges have four or five places each year reserved for students interested in food animal agriculture. Some of these programs also include financial incentives to practice in rural areas.
There is also a need to expose undergraduate students to food animals so they will develop an interest in them, said Bristol.