Shortage of Large-Animal Vets Poses Several Challenges - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Dongola, IL

Shortage of Large-Animal Vets Poses Several Challenges

Shortage of Large-Animal Vets Poses Several Challenges
By: Amy Jacquin

Dr.Ulrich is used to working in cold, uncomfortable weather, handling 1,200 pound animals. But fewer and fewer veterinarians are, because they can bigger money treating smaller animals.

"I pay well," says veterinarian Dr. Tony Ulrich. "I pay a living wage. I tend to pay 15 to 20 percent higher than the average starting pay."

A Dongola veterinarian admits it's hard recruiting new veterinarians. Statistics from Kansas State University show 78 percent of vets refuse to treat large animals.

That puts a real crunch on rural vets, who often have to travel farther for farm calls.

It's a problem for farmers whose livestock need emergency care. Agricultural experts worry the shortage may affect the ability handle outbreaks of catastrophic diseases. And rural vets trying to grow their practices must offer more incentives to entice new staff members.

"There are fewer livestock farms," adds Dr. Ulrich. "And there are not many rural students who are choosing to go into veterinarian medicine, because they can make more money at things that don't require as much schooling."

Dr. Brian Heuring always planned on practicing close to home. At the Dongola clinic, he sees small animals in the morning and large animals in the afternoon. But more veterinarian students are from urban areas, and return to the cities.

"I grew up in a rural area," says Dr. Heuring. "I always new I wanted to work in a mixed-animal practice. That's my preference. This is a perfect fit."

Farmers frequently vaccinate and treat their own livestock. There has to be something seriously wrong before they'll pay a large-animal veterinarian to make a farm call....

"I'm out in my vehicle in the afternoons, visiting with the farmers," Dr. Heuring explains. "It's what I grew up doing, and it's what I enjoy. You have to love to do it."

The Ulrich clinic pays exceptionally well, and offers 12 weeks of vacation every year. It attracts younger vets, who still have practical experience to gain... which means they may not recognize the signs of a catastrophic illness in the food chain.

"It may very well slow-down the effort," agrees Dr. Ulrich. "Nobody wants to be the vet who misses hoof and mouth, or mad cow. But when you get a bunch of new vets who aren't used to cattle or hogs, it can be hard to catch."

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