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Dr. Aubrey Vena, center, cuts the ribbon at the opening of Cambria Veterinary Care’s new haul-in facility. Credit: Cambria Veterinary Care.

NIFA Funding Helps Veterinary Clinic Better Serve Large Animal Clients

With funding from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Cambria Veterinary Care in Johnstown, Penn., now can better serve its large animal clients. The veterinary clinic leveraged a $125,000 Veterinary Services Grant to purchase much-needed equipment that will be used in the field and in the clinic’s new haul-in facility.  

The clinic provides care for a variety of species located in a rural veterinary shortage area, including equine, beef and dairy herds, small ruminants, swine, camelids and poultry. To date, the grant has funded a truck that serves as a mobile veterinary care unit, a portable digital radiology system and a portable ultrasound system. 

“In our area, large animal clients have been struggling to acquire medical care for their livestock, with many even going without appropriate veterinary care due to the shortage of large animal veterinarians and the massive demand placed on those that have been serving our area,” said Dr. Aubrey Vena, who specializes in large animal care. “Simply put, there are not enough veterinary medical professionals to satisfy the demand from large animal clients in our immediate and surrounding area. Our hopes are that our clinic, specifically our haul-in facility, helps to alleviate this stress by offering an effective and efficient solution for clients with access to competent, confident and sustainable large animal veterinary care.” 

According to Vena, the USDA NIFA grant helped the clinic to get a tremendous head start on its new large animal veterinary clinic. With the purchase of a mobile unit, diagnostic imaging equipment and other big-ticket items, the clinic was able to get boots on the ground serving the food and farm animal community while the haul-in facility was still being constructed.  

“Now, with the opening of the haul-in facility, the equipment purchased with the help of the NIFA grant has been transitioned to use both in house and out in the field,” said Vena, whose parents opened the clinic in 2013. “We intend to further use our NIFA grant to better equip our haul-in facility for food animals in the near future, with the inclusion of both small ruminant and bovine handling equipment.” 

NIFA’s Veterinary Services Grant Program (VSGP) works to relieve veterinarian shortage situations and support veterinary services. Grants support these goals in a number of ways, including to equip veterinary practices, share in reasonable overhead costs of operating a veterinary practice and establish mobile veterinary facilities in which a portion of the mobile facilities will address education or Extension needs. 

“Food animal veterinarians are critical to maintaining a healthy, secure and safe food supply,” said Dr. Robert Smith, NIFA national program leader in the Division of Animal Systems. “Today, there is a critical shortage of food animal veterinarians in both private and public practice, particularly in rural communities in the United States and Insular Areas. Food animal producers rely on veterinarians and veterinary technicians with expertise in food animal medicine and surgery as well as advanced training in herd health, diagnostic medicine, epidemiology, public health and food safety.” 

In 2023, more than $3.8 million in VSGP grant money was available to support its overall program, to include this rural Practice Enhancement Program.  The same level of funding is anticipated for 2024. 

“We envision growth and expansion for the livestock and equine community by prioritizing education and community engagement to ultimately encourage interest in large animal veterinary medicine and agriculture,” Dr. Vena said. “By collaborating with agri-leaders, educators, producers, enthusiasts, my colleagues and fellow large animal veterinarians, and the next generation of veterinary medical professionals, we intend to bolster agriculture, grow the local economy, better animal welfare and improve the quality of life for food and farm animals, as well as, in turn, for their humans. Together, we are paving the way for a brighter future for large animal veterinary care in Cambria County and beyond.” 

Farm Bill Priority Areas
Animal health and production and animal products
U.S. States and Territories

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