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Shortage Region WY235

Shortage Location
Sweetwater County, Wyoming
Location Center
641 Elk Street
Rock Springs, WY 82901
VSGP Status
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
Small Ruminant
Other Must Serve
May serve
Carry Over
Nominator Name
Hallie Hasel
Nominator Title
Wyoming State Veterinarian
Nominator Org
Wyoming Livestock Board
Nominator Email
Nominator Phone
Importance/Objectives of Veterinarian

Sweetwater County is Wyoming's largest county, total area 10,491 sq. miles in southwestern Wyoming. The county includes most of the Great Divide Basin, as well as Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. The area offers excellent hunting in both the Red Desert region and mountainous terrain, as well as exceptional fly-fishing opportunities in the Green River. Sweetwater County is famed to be the top mule deer county in Wyoming. The county is additionally home to a large number of wild horses and the White Mountain Petroglyphs. Green River is the county seat; the largest city is Rock Springs, population 23K. There are approximately 220 ranches raising 21.5K cattle/calves, as of 2017. 73% of Sweetwater County is under either federal or state ownership, and common grazing allotments are necessary for many producers. Consequently, adequate numbers of food animal veterinarians are vital to this area. Food animal veterinarians provide owner education/outreach for infections, contagious, and/or communicable diseases, supported by the constant interaction between livestock and wildlife within our grazing areas. In addition to the work available with beef cattle, there are opportunities for small ruminant and equine work, with fairly significant obstetrical work in the spring. There is demand for additional veterinary capability in the county, as some veterinarians travel from as far as two hours away to service local ranches.

Veterinarian Medical Activities & Services

Sweetwater County has great opportunities for outstanding veterinary entrepreneurship. Potential exists for herd health consultation, production management, embryo transfer, and artificial insemination. Species include beef cattle, small ruminants, and limited swine operations. Operations vary tremendously in size, ranging from 2000 cattle to backyard livestock enterprises. Spring is busy with obstetrical work, although over time calving season has lengthened, extending from mid-January to mid-June. Food animal surgeries include c-sections, urethrotomies/-ostomies, eye enucleations, claw removal, castration, dehorning, abscess treatment, trauma treatment, and lumpectomies. A strong desire exists within the communities for veterinary mentorship regarding livestock management, outreach, and production. Additional mentorship opportunities include the Western Wyoming Community College Health Sciences degree program, designed to prepare students for transfer to specialized programs such as veterinary technology, as well as livestock events, including 4-H and FFA. Interaction with state and federal veterinarians occurs regularly due to brucellosis surveillance. Tremendous potential also exists for collaboration with federal and state wildlife officials regarding the livestock - wildlife interface on the large percentage of federal land across the county. Producer outreach in conjunction with extension also occurs on a regular basis.

Historical Efforts of Recruiting/Retaining a Veterinarian

Current veterinarians in the area are aging and retiring faster than new veterinarians are hired. Efforts to recruit in the recent past include identifying students from veterinary school each year come to the area to complete their internship with the hope they return and stay. Recruiting associate veterinarians is challenging due to increased debt and a smaller pool of interested candidates. Wyoming does not currently have a state funded student loan repayment program. Competing with states who have a loan repayment program is difficult, thus Wyoming's need for VMLRP. Because of our low population, the number of home-grown candidates tends to be small in number.

Consequences of Not Securing/Retaining a Veterinarian

Wyoming must address this veterinary shortage to ensure a safe food supply, specifically for beef cattle coming out of Sweetwater County. Wyoming's Brucellosis Designated Surveillance Area (DSA) is to the immediate north of the county. Wyoming requires intense brucellosis surveillance for cattle residing within the DSA, and upon change of ownership either within or upon transiting the DSA. In-person veterinary care is needed to mitigate increased risk to public health threats such as emerging diseases and drug residue exposure. Wyoming's #3 business is agriculture, and Sweetwater County is representative of Wyoming's ranch culture. Producers need continual veterinary care, advice on preventive medicine, and production management recommendations for their animals. We continue to lose more food animal veterinarians annually than we are able to hire. Without access to veterinarians, our producers are unable to test their cattle in a timely manner, resulting in economic loss. Food animal veterinarians are needed for continually increasing regulations regarding veterinary feed directives and antibiotic usage, along with the continued demand for organic, grass-fed beef and niche marketing, difficult with the harsh winters we receive. Increasing interaction between livestock and wildlife due to changing land use continues to present challenges for Wyoming producers. Food animal veterinarians are ideally poised to offer education and outreach, along with specifically designed herd health plans, to keep our producers economically viable. The Wyoming Livestock Board is in the process of developing an animal disease traceability program, and recruiting private practitioner input. Our food animal veterinarians are paramount for success of this program, especially with their highly valued, practical input.

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