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Shortage Region WA232

Shortage Location
Columbia, Garfield, Asotin and Walla Walla counties
Location Center
Pomeroy, WA or Dayton, WA
VMLRP Status
(Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program)
Priority of shortage
Fiscal year
Percent FTE
(Full Time Equivalent, based on a 40hr work week.)
Type of Shortage
(Veterinary Practice Area / Discipline / Specialty)
Type II Shortage: Private Practice – Rural Area Food Animal Medicine
Must serve
Beef Cattle
May serve
Small Ruminant
Other May Serve
VSGP Status
Carry Over
Nominator Name
Amber J Itle
Nominator Title
Washington State Veterinarian
Nominator Org
Nominator Email
Nominator Phone
Importance/Objectives of Veterinarian

Service by a veterinarian in this area is extremely important to the local economy, as well as the general well-being of food animals. Livestock production, in particular beef ranches, are robust in this area with swings and seasonality of food animal work that coincides with calving/ breeding season prior to seasonal grazing in the mountains and on public lands. According to NASS, beef cattle inventories in this area are vast at nearly 80,000 head (Columbia (4100), Garfield (9,800), Asotin (10,300) and Walla Walla (55,000)) with very little available veterinary services in the 3500 square mile area. Veterinarians and producers report that there is only 1 part time veterinarian close to retirement available to do food animal work. One other semi-retired veterinarian will only do limited farm consults. Producers are forced to drive 1-2 hours to the WSU Veterinary School for emergency services. The Veterinary school capacity is overwhelmed, students are working longer rotations and producers are being turned away. Tight knit communities make a perfect environment to raise a family, become leaders in local towns, churches, schools and on farms alike as trusted source of scientific, animal and public health information. This area is a recreational enthusiasts dream. Over 300 days of sunshine, mild winters, hunting, fishing, water/snow recreation, and proximity to larger cities nearby. The area is within 30 miles of four major colleges and two large cities.

Veterinarian Medical Activities & Services

The person filling these positions must become comfortable with being treated as a community asset, due to its importance to the vibrancy of the community and the value added to the ag economy. The veterinarian in this area would provide routine veterinary care for food animals (vaccine protocols, parasite control, pregnancy detection, and breeding soundness exam); regulatory vaccinations/testing in accordance with state/federal health programs (Trichomoniasis, TB, Brucella), and brand inspection; certificate of veterinary inspection for interstate/international movement of animals; disease diagnostic (post-mortem evaluation/toxicology testing); and emergency veterinary services (surgical services, obstetrics, injury etc) for food animals and ranch horses. The veterinarian would also work with local animal shows/exhibitions to aid in regulatory requirements and producer/community education. In addition to large scale commercial production, this position works with smaller producers who produce "cottage foods" for family nutrition and income by selling farm-slaughtered meats, milk, wool, eggs, chickens live and processed, rabbits for meat, honey and breeding stock. The vet's role is extremely important to educate the small, niche and self consuming producers on food safety, drug use/withdrawals, VFDs and monitoring mechanisms to safeguard public health. There are opportunities to expand services to small diversified farms that are sorely underserved.

Historical Efforts of Recruiting/Retaining a Veterinarian

Two part time food animals vets are all that are left in an area once served by 5 veterinary clinics. For eight years, local vets in the area have advertised in WA, ID, and OR Veterinary Medication Association publications, the AVMA journal, social media, and have had direct outreach to regional Veterinary Schools. Job postings have proved costly and unsuccessful. Recruitment of food animal veterinarians has become near impossible for rural practices in SE Washington because of location and salary disparity compared to small animal practices. Supporting externships, mentorships and area students, while fulfilling, has also proved unsuccessful. We are confident that the NIFA program would attract a new veterinarian to this area.

Consequences of Not Securing/Retaining a Veterinarian

Shortage of veterinarians in Southeast WA has passed the critical issue level and is nearing crisis level. This shortage is not only impacting the care of food animals and potentially the production of safe food from these animals, but it is also greatly taking its toll on the mental and physical health of the current vets providing services in the area. There are two food animal veterinarians in the entire region, both in their mid seventies, nearing retirement. They share concerns about not being able to adequately serve their clients now and in the future. They both speak to their own experiences (45+ years) as to the detrimental effects of not being able to reduce work load. When veterinary services are unavailable or slowed by overwork of available veterinarians, producers rely on their own initiative often at the expense of animal welfare, antimicrobial resistance and food safety. Producers attempt things beyond skill level (crude cesarean sections/ pulling calves, enucleations, inappropriate euthanasia) without pain mitigation. Animals are treated unneccessary and inappropriately with pharmaceuticals, at incorrect dosage levels with no regard to withdrawals before slaughter or marketing. Veterinarians in these rural areas are the keystone to educating producers and providing the rationale for animal husbandry, immunization programs, early disease recognition and the impacts of zoonotic diseases. Veterinarians recognize and report emerging and foreign animal disease and are the agents of interstate and international livestock movement. Proximity to international borders and ports in Washington State raises the likelihood of undetected imported diseases. With 80,000 head of cattle concentrated in this area, there is a critical need for food animal veterinarians to safeguard animal health and protect the economic vitality of this agricultural region.

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