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December 01, 2020

Project supports food animal veterinarians in Texas, New Mexico

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Texas A&M University AgriLife faculty members are laying the groundwork for a network of rural veterinarians to provide education and assistance to make rural veterinary practices sustainable in Texas and New Mexico at a time when food animal veterinarians are in short supply.

Started in September, the three-year project—“Improving the Sustainability of Rural Veterinarians Through Mentoring, Targeted Education, Telemedicine, and Monitoring of Disease Syndromes”—seeks to shift the focus from treatment to prevention through a comprehensive herd health approach.


Overseeing the project is Dr. Tom Hairgrove, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service cattle veterinary specialist with the TAMU Department of Animal Science. The project is supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Dr. Hairgrove believes practitioners who stop diseases before they start will be a great asset to livestock producers.

“We know livestock enterprises are major contributors to rural communities,” Dr. Hairgrove said in an Oct. 6 press release. “We want to improve the communication and cooperation between the livestock industry and the veterinary profession to ultimately improve livestock health and economic sustainability for rural communities.”

“Veterinarians responding in a ‘fire engine’ manner simply is no longer practical,” Dr. Hairgrove said. “We need livestock producers to realize that veterinarians can contribute more to their operation profits if a comprehensive health management program is developed.”

As envisioned, the network will link together rural practitioners through virtual reporting and diagnostic tools so veterinarians in underserved areas feel more engaged and part of a larger group experiencing similar issues in production agriculture.

According to the grant description, the goals of the program include helping provide a sufficient supply of food animal veterinarians to serve livestock producers in underserved areas and educating producers so they will request more intensive health programs for livestock, to be designed with major assistance from rural veterinary practitioners.

Veterinarians working on the project along with Dr. Hairgrove are Drs. James Thompson, professor of food animal theriogenology, and Jennifer Schleining, clinical associate professor large animal medicine and surgery, both at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, and John Wenzel, New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service veterinarian.

The project’s first step, Dr. Hairgrove said, will be establishing a mentoring program for early-career veterinarians to help them feel less isolated and more supported.

Additionally, AgriLife Extension will host monthly virtual rounds focusing on important cases with faculty members from the veterinary college participating.