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Rural areas running out of veterinarians

Posted at 10:51 PM, Jan 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-28 23:51:35-05

CENTRAL TEXAS — A growing number of veterinarians are taking up jobs inside cities, and that's leaving farmers and ranchers without good options for animal care.

Browse the web for vet offices in Waco or any other Central Texas city and you'll come up with a long list of options. It's quite the opposite out in the country, where vets are becoming increasingly harder to find.

Many rural veterinarians have left the practice or retired, but younger vets aren't following in their footsteps and instead are starting up careers in cities. It's put farmers and ranchers in a perilous position.

"If you don't have access to that care, sometimes quite frankly you may lose the animal," said Texas Farm Bureau president Russell Boening. "And so that's an economic loss."

When Amy Mersiovsky isn't at work as a nurse, she’s helping raise dozens of rabbits in her barn. She knows how tricky it can be to find proper care for farm animals.

"I live in an area where it doesn't take me long to get to a vet if I need one," said Mersiovsky. "Now getting one who's comfortable working with rabbits, that's another thing."

Finding a vet who can care for your dog or cat is a bit simpler, but farmers are especially hurt by a lack of doctors who treat livestock.

"That is probably one of the biggest shortages in the vet industry," said Mersiovsky. "I think that's definitely an area of need."

Boening believes that aspiring vets aren't getting enough encouragement to adapt to a rural lifestyle, but he's working to change that.

"Moving out to a rural area, you know, sometimes is difficult. It's not only difficult financially, but it can be different culturally," said Boening.

The Texas Farm Bureau recently introduced scholarships for veterinary students who intend to pursue a rural practice. Four scholarships will be awarded, each worth $10,000. Applicants must be a member of Texas Farm Bureau, among other guidelines. It's the start of what Boening hopes to be a bigger solution.

"We're going to put a committee together to look at other ways we can help," said Boening. "Possibly after they establish a practice."

Boening said some college attendees may be dissuaded from pursuing a veterinary degree because of high cost of education, and that providing financial assistance may help put more veterinarians in our future. New blood entering the rural vet industry would go a long way in easing the concerns of farmers and ranchers.