The ranching community will welcome the Alberta government’s effort to boost veterinarian numbers, says a central Alberta beef producer.
The province announced last week it would invest $8.4 million over three years to eventually double the number of graduates to 100 from 50 from the University of Calgary’s veterinary medicine program. Another $59 million in capital funding will also be provided to build spaces for the new students.
In announcing the funding, Premier Jason Kenney said that agriculture is a key pillar in the provincial economy.
“That’s why it is so critical we ensure that livestock have access to the veterinary care that keeps them healthy.”
Richard Lorenz, who raises about 140 cows in the Markerville area, said large animal vets have been in short supply for a long time.
“I think these are all positive moves, for sure,” said Lorenz. “Hopefully, we can get the number of students we need to enter the profession of veterinarians in Alberta, or Western Canada for that matter, so it does hopefully (relieve) the overworked vets that we have.
“Right now, what is happening is they are working Monday to Friday and shutting down on the weekend. So, hopefully, you don’t need a vet on the weekend because they are burnt out,” he said.
“We need some new, young blood in the industry to help it, for sure.”
At its spring convention in March, Rural Municipalities Association (RMA) members endorsed a resolution sponsored by Mountain View County urging the government to double the number of vet graduates.
The county also wants to see efforts boosted to recruit foreign veterinarians, develop online support programs for practising vets and for the Rural Municipalities Association (RMA) to work with the university to encourage and support students heading to the veterinarian program.
In background information for its resolution, the county says there are 377 veterinarian vacancies in Alberta and 487 unfilled veterinarian technologist positions. A 2021 professional workforce study estimated that the shortage of veterinary professionals will grow 3.5 times by 2040, creating a shortage of nearly 3,400 vets and vet technologists.
Rural communities’ post-COVID-19 growth opportunities will be restricted if action is not taken to reduce vet shortages, said the county.
In announcing the graduate increase, Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic Development Minister Nate Horner acknowledged the vital role vets play.
“Veterinary medicine is a key sector in our rural economy and more Alberta-trained vets is a big win for our livestock sector.”