Kansas ranchers struggle to find veterinarians for livestock

Associated Press
Livestock News

TOPEKA, Kan. — State, livestock and university officials are hoping Kansas ranchers will help a task force determine how to find more veterinarians to tend the state's crucial livestock industry.

Cattle ranching and related businesses employ nearly 39,000 people and contribute an estimated $8.7 billion to the Kansas economy. But many livestock ranchers cannot find veterinarians to care for the animals.

“If you don’t have a veterinarian that you can contact to provide the various vet services, it can have devastating impacts to your business,” Deputy Kansas Agriculture Secretary Kelsey Olson said.

A group called the Rural Veterinary Workforce Development Task Force is promoting an online survey to determine where in Kansas the need for veterinarians is greatest, The Kansas News Service reported.

The shortage is partly because many veterinary students want to treat smaller animals like cats and dogs, rather than heifers and hogs, Olson said.

And a rural veterinarian practice is challenging, Olson said, often requiring being on call every weekend. Larger practices in cities allow veterinarians to share the demands of the job with others.

Still, the shortage of large animal vets is not as bad in Kansas as in many other states.

Brad White, a Kansas State University professor and director of the Beef Cattle Institute, said about 25% of the school’s graduates work in mixed or large animal practices. He said the nationwide average is only around 14%.

White hopes livestock producers will take the survey so the task force can determine where veterinary shortages are the most severe.

He said fixing the shortage will take more than increasing the number of veterinary programs that focus on food animals.

“Is it education? Is it on the supply side? Is it on the demand side? Where is the discrepancy?” he said.