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Shortage Region CA246

State/Territory
California
Shortage Location - Must Serve
Imperial County, CA
Shortage Location - May Serve
Location Center
Brawley, CA
VSGP Status
Open
VMLRP Status
(Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program)
Open
Priority of shortage
Critical
Fiscal year
Percent FTE
(Full Time Equivalent, based on a 40hr work week.)
30
Type of Shortage
(Veterinary Practice Area / Discipline / Specialty)
Type II Shortage: Private Practice – Rural Area Food Animal Medicine
Must serve
Beef Cattle
Other Must Serve
May serve
Poultry
Small Ruminant
Other May Serve
Employer
Position Title
Other disciplinary area
Carry Over
Nominator Name
Dr. Annette Jones
Nominator Title
Division Director
Nominator Org
California Dept of Food and Agriculture
Nominator Email
Nominator Phone
916-900-5000
Importance/Objectives of Veterinarian
Addressing the veterinary shortage in Imperial County is essential to maintaining a safe and secure food supply in California. The veterinarian's objective is to serve small herd/flock communities , including youth agriculture, within the county, as well as supporting the area's beef cattle, seasonal sheep industry, and other livestock populations. Occupying 4,175 square miles and bordering Nevada, Arizona and the country of Mexico, the Imperial Valley's year-round sunshine and advanced irrigation systems make it an ideal location for alfalfa growing, crop production, and livestock production, with animal agriculture making up a $427 million business for the county. The county is home to most of California's feed yards (382,065 head) and, in the winter, approximately 56,723 sheep from across the west are relocated here for grazing. Due to some of the flocks' mobile nature, having a veterinarian to assist with CDFA and USDA disease detection has ramifications on a multi-state and international level, as disease could be imported to and exported from the region. There are permanent small hobby and show flocks, as well as goat dairies and breeders that need assistance. The numbers of poultry owners has noticeably increased, including backyard chickens, turkeys and quail. Additionally, the practitioner will play a vital role in antimicrobial stewardship through fostering preventive herd health and biosecurity plans and establishing oversight through a veterinarian-client-patient relationship.
Veterinarian Medical Activities & Services
The veterinarian would primarily serve beef cattle and small ruminants, performing typical duties of a food animal practitioner including but not limited to: pregnancy diagnosis, obstetrical difficulties, foreign animal disease surveillance, semen evaluation, trichomoniasis testing, and overall herd health practices (vaccination, castration, certificates of veterinary inspection and regulatory testing requirements). The veterinarian should also make routine herd visits to monitor implementation of herd health and biosecurity plans, as well as usage of antibiotics and other prescription medications. Activities may include development of treatment and vaccination protocols, and biosecurity assessment. Provision of emergency services would be important, as existing out-of-town vets cannot readily provide emergency services for the targeted small and hobby flocks. The veterinarian should provide veterinary services and outreach to small hobby farms and/or youth agriculture groups such as 4-H. These operations often require more time and nuanced care, with educational farm visits that rely on veterinarians teaching safe and sustainable animal agriculture practices to maintain good health and welfare standards. The veterinarian may also assist with emergency veterinary needs during natural disasters, teach quality assurance programs, establish Secure Food Supply plans, or work for local county fairs, petting zoos, or rodeos. There are also opportunities to collaborate with the U.C. Desert Research Station, and livestock diagnostic support can be found through the state animal health laboratory in nearby San Bernardino.
Historical Efforts of Recruiting/Retaining a Veterinarian
Recruitment is difficult due to the remoteness of the valley. For several years, a local UC Cooperative Extension representative has advocated to bring a veterinarian to areas that have lost their only vet. Currently, veterinarians predominately based in Arizona offer limited services in the Imperial area. A prospective veterinarian could similarly be based nearby and fulfill the need by regularly dedicating time in the area.
Consequences of Not Securing/Retaining a Veterinarian
There is a true need for continued veterinary services in Imperial County because: 1) feeder cattle come into the county from across the United States and Mexico, 2) sheep from across the western United States are often wintered in this area, and 3) the flow of wildlife and FAD vectors across the border makes for an increased risk for introduction and establishment of contagious animal diseases brought over from Mexico. Without adequate veterinary services and presence in Imperial County, the State of California is at risk of FADs establishing themselves within the area and spreading onward. Additionally, because of changes made through state and federal antimicrobial laws and regulations, producers of all sizes require now veterinary oversight in the form of a VCPR in order to access therapies that were previously available over-the-counter. The 4-H and FFA groups are especially vulnerable to this requirement; although they are short-term producers, they often require involvement from a vet regarding preventive health, food safety, antimicrobial stewardship, and biosecurity. Without appropriate veterinary medical support, animal health and welfare are at risk and disease threats are imminent. A 2022 article was published in the Imperial Valley Press titled "Vet's Retirement Leaves a Hole." The author discussed how critical veterinary services are in the area, citing an interview with Imperial County Farm Bureau. It is crucial to find a replacement for these lost services. The Imperial Valley is unique in its cultural diversity and agricultural richness. A veterinarian seeking to live in a close-knit and hardworking community, and who wants to have a valuable impact on livestock production in California, will be a perfect fit for this nomination.
Community Aspects
Just south of Palm Springs, Imperial County is a vast, arid desert oasis. Though remote, the area has striking landscapes and offers great outdoor activities. It is an easy 2 hours from San Diego, a top beach city with an international airport. For camping, hiking, and skiing, Joshua Tree National Park and the San Bernardino Mountains are within driving distance. Adventure seekers can enjoy camping and off-roading their ATVs at the Glamis Sand Dunes. Nearby Anza-Borrego State Park extends into the county with hiking trails and gorgeous springtime wildflower blooms.

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