According to the latest BEEF survey, producers reporting a significant or severe shortage of large animal DVMs in their communities (Figure 3) resided in the Northeast (31%), South Atlantic (28.5%), and West South Central (26.3%) regions. The West North Central (11.2%) and East North Central (15.9%) regions scored the highest in current availability of large-animal vets in the community.

 

Among DVMs surveyed (Figure 4), only 1.2% of respondents claimed a severe shortage, while 7.2% cited a significant shortage. The vast majority (74.7%) said the supply of large-animal veterinarians is adequate, while another 16.9% said there was a slight or seasonal shortage in their community.

When producers were asked how often they had difficulty obtaining the services of a vet for emergency services (Figure 5), 24.5% said never, while 57.3% said seldom, 14.6% said usually, and 3.6% said nearly always or always. 

“The availability of food animal vets is adequate considering preventive herd health and reproductive management. The problem is the majority of producers only request emergency services, and often food animal veterinarians are busy providing routine herd work elsewhere and are unavailable for immediate service,” says one DVM respondent. “I think the misconception of a shortage began because of the lack of a good relationship. I will not stop pregnancy exams for a good producer to go pull a calf or fix a prolapse for someone who only uses me for emergencies.”

When producers were asked how often they had difficulty scheduling the services of a veterinarian for “herd work,” routine services or consultation (Figure 6), 32.7% of respondents said never, while 52.4% said seldom. Another 12.2% said usually and 2.7% said nearly always or always.

“I do not believe the perceived shortage of vets is real. That being said, clients still think this is a problem. Therefore, when they call and a vet is available for them, they are very satisfied,” said one DVM.

Another question queried producers this way: “Costs being equal, how do you feel about licensed technicians vs. veterinarians conducting certain procedures for you such as pregnancy testing?” Of producer respondents, 48.5% said they were very confident or somewhat confident in technicians, while 16.7% said it didn’t matter. Another 14.8% preferred to use only the services of a vet.

When DVMs were asked how they felt about the ability of licensed technicians to conduct certain procedures such as pregnancy testing, breeding soundness exams and breeding services, 62.7% said such tasks should only be performed by a veterinarian. Meanwhile, 25.3% said they were very or somewhat confident in technicians, and 12% said it did not matter.

“If large animal veterinary practices are profitable, there will be vets willing to do the work. Beef producers need to be willing to support their local clinics instead of outsourcing products and services to lay channels,” responded another DVM.

When vets were asked whether veterinary medical practices laws should be changed to allow more flexibility in the services and procedures that can be performed by licensed large-animal veterinary technicians and assistants, 87.8% said no. The remaining 12.2% said yes.

When DVMs were asked if their practice had added any DVMs in the past five years, 34.6% said yes, 63% said no, and 2.5% said no, but the practice had been looking to hire.

“Solo practices in small towns are going to be difficult to maintain for the producers in those areas. Few veterinarians want to be on call 24/7 and live in rural areas. Multi-person practices will likely predominate and they will either drive more or have more haul in of animals. Solo practitioners like myself are ‘vetasaurus rex’ and soon to be extinct,” one veterinarian responded on the survey.

“There is a good availability of vets; it’s just that the debt load of new graduates precludes them from being able to afford a low-paying, learning position in large-animal practice where they can learn the skills necessary to be a beef herd vet. Some underserved areas also just don’t have the workload to be able to pay a DVM an appropriate annual salary,” said another.

Editor’s note: BEEFmagazine surveyed 33,474 producers and 920 large-animal veterinarians by email in mid September. A total of 1,404 usable completed surveys were compiled from producers (4.2% effective response rate), and 83 usable completed surveys from DVMs (9% effective response rate). See more figures from the survey here.