(04/06/20) BATON ROUGE, La. — Food animal veterinarians are vital for the health and well-being of our nation’s food supply. But the profession faces challenges that are not well understood, which ultimately impacts the workforce’s ability to recruit and retain professionals.
“Food animal veterinarians are key to providing the world with a safe and secure food supply,” said LSU AgCenter veterinarian Dr. Christine Navarre. “They work directly with producers to ensure the health and welfare of food producing animals as well as work in food safety and other public health areas.”
Navarre recently chaired a task force addressing the issue in a new paper published by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology. She, along with other veterinary scientists and experts, focused on the economic and social factors affecting the profession.
The authors describe economic challenges as changes in the agricultural industry that affect supply and demand However, determining exactly how many individuals work with food-producing animals is difficult due to missing and outdated information.
“A lack of detailed employment data, differences in methodology and an ever-changing animal agricultural landscape make predicting how many food animal veterinarians are needed difficult," Navarre said.
Social factors also influence students’ and professional veterinarians’ choices for where and what they practice. Among the top social challenges is student debt which can be high for all veterinarians, including food animal veterinarians.
Many veterinarians also cite the lack of support in rural agricultural communities among the barriers that curb them from this type of work. For example, veterinarians with spouses tend to search for communities that are capable of providing a career for their significant others.
While there are challenges to building a strong food animal veterinarian workforce, the CAST paper’s authors outline strategies that may increase recruitment and retention for the profession.
“Despite the difficulties, food animal veterinarians and the producers they serve are innovative and adaptable and will find ways to keep providing for the health and welfare of food animals and producing safe and affordable food,” Navarre said.
The paper, Impact of Recruitment and Retention of Food Animal Veterinarians on the U.S. Food Supply, is available to download for free on the CAST website at www.cast-science.org.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture