Nineteen veterinary students are spending five weeks this summer on dairies and with veterinarians to gain an inside view of the rewards and challenges of food animal practice.
The Early Veterinary Student Bovine Experience Program aims to increase the number of veterinary students who choose careers working with dairy or beef cattle. The School of Veterinary Medicine, cattle producers, food animal veterinarians and corporate sponsors have sponsored the hands-on program since 2001.
Participants do not need previous cattle experience. In fact, some students enter the program having only had small animal experience. Students typically begin the program by working five weeks at dairies or beef operations to experience the daily activities and issues in production settings.
Interested students may follow up the next summer on another 5-week assignment riding with a veterinary practitioner. At the clinic and on field calls, participants observe cases, help with diagnostics and vaccination programs, and take part in discussions with producers and veterinarians as they analyze unique issues in herd health. Along the way, participants benefit from practical career advice, business tips and personal insights about the working conditions and lifestyles of seasoned rural veterinarians.
Of this year's 19 participants, 14 are returning students going to veterinary practices. Most receive assignments in California, but some students have arranged to work in Oregon, Nevada, Idaho and Arizona. One student is spending several weeks in Germany before returning to a beef ranch in the United States.
Each student receives a $2500 scholarship underwritten in part by Pfizer Animal Health.
Food animal practitioners are in demand on California's large dairies as well as other food animal settings. Starting salaries for food animal vets are usually higher than those of small animal practitioners. Unlike most of their counterparts in small animal practice who deal with animals one at a time, food animal veterinarians must know how to manage the health of large herds or flocks of animals. Food animal veterinarians also have responsibilities regarding food safety.