Working to bring individuals with large-animal interest into veterinary medicine

June 26, 2008

by Tania Banak

There has been much publicity lately about changes in the agricultural industry, accompanied by speculation that there will be fewer large-animal veterinarians.

Part of the challenge is that as the size of dairy herds grows, fewer families are farming. In turn, that means fewer youngsters are exposed to the farming lifestyle. And even those who do grow up on a farm often prefer a more predictable work schedule, with easier access to the amenities of the city.

To ensure that Wisconsin's dairy industry will not be left without professional veterinary care, a group of students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine has partnered with the school's Office of Academic Affairs and dean's office to introduce youngsters to the positive side of a career in agriculture, including that of large-animal veterinarian.

The group calls itself Veterinary Medicine Outreach, Recruitment and Education (VetMORE) and has already organized numerous outreach events.

"We're targeting key agricultural events, like the state FFA convention and various farm breakfasts," notes Stephanie Jicinsky, one of the group's organizers. "We organize local veterinarians for Q&A sessions, and have held Saturday workshops for both students and teachers. We give them a sample of what veterinary medicine can be like, through hands-on use of anatomy lab specimens, case presentations, physical exams, reproduction and hoof trimming."

Recently, VetMORE got a $500 grant from the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation's "Wisconsin Agriculture in the Classroom" program to develop a veterinary resource library. The library will provide teaching materials and resources for teachers in districts that cannot afford to purchase these items themselves. Twelve mini-libraries will be compiled and placed in each of the state's Cooperative Extension Service Agencies (CESAs). The grant was matched by an additional $500 from the School of Veterinary Medicine's Office of Academic Affairs, for $1,000 total.

"The Resource Library will include items such as leg bones, hooves, radiographs, teeth of horses and cattle, and suggestions of lessons and activities to accompany them," Jicinsky says.

Middle and high school age youngsters are targeted.

The effort is supported by the school's Office of Academic Affairs, and numerous clinicians and instructors from the veterinary medical school, as well as the group's adviser, Peter Vanderloo of the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.