Saskatchewan cattle producers are worried about the potential loss of funding to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine if Manitoba cuts its contribution.
They say the lack of large animal veterinarians is already a concern, and fewer trainees won’t help that.
Val Marie rancher Lynn Grant said for years there has been the perception that the number of large animal vets is decreasing.
“Is there anybody keeping track of the number of vets that we have in the province that are practising large animal so we can get some data?” he asked during the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association annual meeting.
He also suggested that the regulations requiring valid veterinary-client-patient relationships for producers to obtain medication are straining some veterinarians’ capacity and could discourage some from entering practice.
“Some of us hear second and third (hand) stories that there’s considerable angst among some of the large animal vets as to how they need to modify their practice to meet the perceived vague rules that they have to operate under.”
He said action should be taken now before veterinary services are unavailable to some producers.
Joe Jackson of Moose Jaw said income is possibly one reason veterinary graduates don’t enter large-animal practice. He said small-animal veterinarians probably earn twice as much money as their large animal counterparts.
“I don’t know if that’s true, but the numbers would tell us,” he said. “We’ve got to find a way for these guys to make a good living to be a large animal vet because I just think that’s a harsh reality.”
One producer said she would almost guarantee that research would show small-animal vets earn more.
“Not just because we don’t want to pay them as much, but people are willing to put $5,000 into their Chihuahua,” she said.
“You’ve got to have something really wrong to put five grand into your cow.”
She also noted that the cost of setting up a large animal practice is considerably more than what is needed for companion animals.
Another producer suggested a tuition rebate for graduates who do enter large animal practice.
Ryan Beierbach from Whitewood said in his region some rural municipalities own large-animal clinics and rent them to vets. More of those could reduce costs to graduates.
Meanwhile, producers are watching the funding situation at the WCVM. Reports that Manitoba isn’t happy with the number of graduates who return to the province prompted one to say perhaps that government should offer incentives.