Although America's agricultural economy is closely connected to the world's most productive dairies and a thriving food animal industry in California, most of today's veterinary students have been raised in cities and suburbs, well away from the rural areas where these industries take place. Recruitment of veterinarians into this practice type takes creative effort as well as practical knowledge.
UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine is reaching out to new students to provide unique summer work experiences with cattle and dairy operations. The goal is to influence students at an early stage of their veterinary education to choose a career in dairy medicine or cattle health.
The food animal veterinarian serves in an essential role in maintaining animal health, productivity and well-being in production settings. Large animal veterinarians are also among the first health professionals to recognize food safety issues on the farm and detect potential infectious diseases of animals that may be passed on to humans. As concerns about food safety and biosecurity rise among consumers, the food animal veterinarian becomes an increasingly important member of the nation's food production system.
The program spans two summer sessions of five weeks each. The first year, students unfamiliar with dairies or cattle live and work on a modern dairy or cattle operation. Participants perform all the tasks of milking, feeding, medicating sick cows and calves, and keeping records. They may meet with veterinarians and learn about farm management during meetings with the dairy's business and operations team.
During a second session of about five weeks the following summer, each student pairs up with a veterinarian or large animal clinic to care for animals on the farm, meet with clients, learn about nutritional management, and address herd health and food safety issues. Raising awareness of issues such as antibiotic resistance in food animals is just one objective of the project.
This year, the original emphasis on dairy medicine has expanded to include students interested in the health of beef cattle. The program began with seven students and has grown to support up to 20 participants each year.
School officials and industry supporters offer scholarship support and mentoring to encourage veterinary students to gain hands on experience with cattle. Pfizer Animal Health supports the program through scholarship funding. Participants receive scholarships of up to $2500 for five weeks of general and specialized training. Agricultural producers introduce students to various aspects of the industry and their facilities, and they may provide free housing for participants.
Veterinary practitioners share their expertise in everything from farm visits to laboratory testing and other aspects of the health management of large populations of animals.
Bradford P. Smith, Associate Dean for Clinical Programs, reports that the program so far appears to be a promising model for increasing the number of students choosing food animal medicine careers. A copy of his report may be viewed at: http://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/evsbep/performance.htm.
The following students from the Class of 2009 have been assigned to participating dairies in Sonoma, Santa Barbara, San Joaquin counties and at one facility in Colorado.
The following students have become familiar with dairy or beef operations and will shadow veterinary practitioners during this summer session. Veterinary practices are located in Tulare, Merced, Sonoma, Yolo, Sacramento, Glenn and Shasta counties.
Brittany Bello, Class of 2007
Jenni Dike, 2007
Heather Clarke, 2007
Marcos Villasenor, 2007
Carlos Borges, 2007
April Miles, 2007
Sara Bartholomew, 2007
Beth-Ann Palermo, 2007
Josh Brownfield, 2007
Jessica Reitz, 2008
Kristina Cataline, 2008
Seth Stammerjohan, 2008
Ray Loc, 2008
Gregg Bell, 2008
You can find more information about the Early Veterinary Student Bovine Experience program at: http://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/evsbep/default.htm
, Dean's Office, (530) 752-5257