Oklahoma State adds training on expanding beef cattle veterinary services

Oklahoma State University faculty members plan to teach veterinarians and veterinary students how to expand services for beef cattle–owning clients.

On Jan. 21-22, the university will host the first in a quarterly series of two-day courses at the College  of Veterinary Medicine’s Roger J. Panciera Education Center on the Stillwater campus. Assistant clinical professor Dr. Rosslyn Biggs, who is the college’s director of continuing education and a beef cattle extension specialist, said each class will contain 20 veterinarians and 20 veterinary students.

Dr. Biggs said Oklahoma State faculty members had planned to offer the first classes in 2021 but delayed them to ensure the veterinary college could safely provide in-person instruction. In the meantime, she and her colleagues within the college have conducted surveys of veterinarians, veterinary students, and beef cattle producers to determine what each group needs to ensure rural veterinary practices thrive and provide the services that cattle owners want or need to become more profitable.

Dr. Biggs said the team plans to publish findings from the survey results within the next year. Preliminary results suggest the need for veterinarians in rural Oklahoma may be greater than anticipated, and she hopes the education program will help recruit and retain veterinarians in beef cattle practice.

The program is funded through a $235,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Oklahoma State officials announced the program’s launch in August 2020.

In that announcement, Dr. John Gilliam, clinical associate professor of food animal production medicine and field services, said the top goal of the program was to increase the number, stability, and longevity of rural veterinary practices serving beef producers across Oklahoma.

Some veterinarians who work in rural areas also can receive support through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program, an AVMA-championed effort that has, since 2010, helped repay student loans for more than 600 veterinarians for work in areas deemed to have a shortage of veterinarians in food animal, mixed animal, or public practice. In federal fiscal year 2020, the program spent about $7.2 million in support of veterinary services.

The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture identified 221 veterinary shortage areas in 2021, including seven areas in Oklahoma with shortages of veterinarians in food animal practice and public practice.

A version of this article appears in the Jan. 1, 2022, print issue of JAVMA.