We've moved!

Social Icons

twitterfacebooklinkedinrss feed

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Veterinarians Still in High Demand; Legislature Says So What?

AP runs a story on jobs that are still hot in the recession. Making the list: veterinarians:

"There's a tremendous demand" for veterinarians, particularly to serve livestock growers in rural areas, said Dr. Ron DeHaven, chief executive officer of the American Veterinary Medical Association. The government is also short of veterinarians needed to inspect slaughterhouses and undertake other food safety measures, he said. The Labor Department projects that the number of veterinary jobs will grow by 35 percent by 2016, DeHaven said [Christopher S. Rugaber, "Even in a Recession, Some Companies Are Hiring," AP via Yahoo News, 2009.03.10].

Now you'd think a big agriculture state like South Dakota, where the veterinarian shortage is particularly acute, would have the foresight to ride this job market wave and create programs that would help fill that demand.

Alas, our State Legislature is apparently as short of foresight as rural South Dakota will remain of animal doctors. HB 1248, which would have authorized the construction of a veterinary school at SDSU, died in committee (even Representative Larry Tidemann of Brookings voted against it). HB 1181 didn't go nearly as far to address the veterinarian shortage: it simply proposed a loan repayment program for up to three veterinarians a year. It received a pretty strong affirmation from the House, only to be shot down 7–1 by Senate State Affairs (District 8's Russell Olson voted the wrong way here... as did Abdallah, Gray, Heidepriem, Knudson, Turbak Berry, and Dempster).

HB 1248 proposed to spend $30 million over the next seven years. I can understand legislators' squeamishness over approving a big-ticket item like that during a budget crunch, but investing in a new veterinary school would have produced a slam-dunk return for Brookings and the whole state. The expense of HB 1181 was minuscule and would have served small communities well.

On both bills, our Legislature demonstrated a lack of vision. We have missed a chance to strengthen South Dakota agriculture and cash in on a high-demand job area.


  1. Cory, Your the only one who could have had such insightful thought. I can see you are the true vision for America.

  2. Is the shortage a lack of veterinarians or a lack of veterinarians who wish to live in South Dakota and want to work with livestock?

  3. Speaking as the parent of a former vet student and now practicing vet, I can offer a couple of suggestions.

    Revise the system you use for allocating out of state tuition payment for the slots at ISU for SD students.
    1. Make sure they are really SD residents, not simply students who attended undergrad in SD but actually live elsewhere.
    2. If the demand is for large animal vets, make the slots for large animal vet students only.
    3. Or take the money allocated for the slots and distribute it evenly among all SD vet students.

    These students have to work in SD one year for each year of tuition assistance; at least it was that way several years ago or they have to repay the assistance.

    Have a large animal vet student partner with a community in need of a large animal vet. The community could help with tuition assistance and in return the student would agree to practice X amount of years in said community.

    I remember when the med school at USD was started in response to a need for more MDS's in SD. And this has worked well. A vet school at SDSU sounds great and maybe would work, but not in the economic climate of this year.

    Also, has there been a study done of how many students this SDSU vet school would attract?

    One other item, one reason small communities have trouble attracting a vet is that these communities usually have little job opportunities for the spouse, and I don't have a solution for that.

    People might think that large animal vets make a mint of money, but this is not the case. Just like the oft-touted "teachers need more money," large animal vets also deserve a better wage. Many times a graduating student cannot afford to take a job he/she might really prefer because of the debt load he/she has.

    Also, even though a student may originally want to practice large animal medicine, small animal offers other benefits (more money, better hours, cleaner and safer working conditions), and vets often make the switch.

  4. Another item I forgot is that at least half or more of the vet students are now female. That's great, but they do not generally go into large animal. Just a fact.

    As to Tony's question, some vets might want to live in SD, but the wages here are low for them compared to say Minnesota. What a vet can charge for small animal care in SD is miniscule, compared to a mid-sized town in MN, and then compared to Mpls. If a a graduating vet really needs a better wage, they won't head for SD to practice, unless they really want to live here. Right now my child would love to return to SD but can't afford to.


Comments are closed, as this portion of the Madville Times is in archive mode. You can join the discussion of current issues at MadvilleTimes.com.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.