Nineteen veterinary students are spending five weeks this summer on dairies and with veterinarians to gain an inside view of the rewards and challenges of food animal practice.

The Early Veterinary Student Bovine Experience Program aims to increase the number of veterinary graduates in careers working with dairy or beef cattle. The School of Veterinary Medicine, cattle producers, practitioners and corporate sponsors have sponsored the hands-on program since 2001. 

"The program gives veterinary students an excellent opportunity to work in an area of food animal practice under the mentorship of either a food animal veterinarian or producer," states John Angelos, program director. 

"While most students start the program having had some food animal experience, others have little to no food animal experience," Angelos explains. The  program gives students an opportunity to experience an area of veterinary practice that they may not have seriously considered.  We hope they will enjoy this experience and that they will stay interested in some aspect of food animal practice after graduation."

A participant typically begins the program by working five weeks at a dairy or in a beef operation to experience the daily activities and issues that producers deal with in  production settings.

An interested student may follow up the next summer on a more advanced five-week assignment riding with a veterinary practitioner. At the clinic and on field calls, the student works directly with the vet to observe cases, help with diagnostics and vaccination programs, and take part in discussions the vet and producer-clients as they analyze herd health plans and concerns.

Along the way, the student gleans practical career advice, business tips and personal insight about the working conditions and lifestyles of seasoned rural veterinarians.

Of this year's 20 participants, nine are returning students who will be spending their time in veterinary practices. Most receive assignments in California, but participants go where the cows are. Some students have arranged to work in Texas, Nevada, Oregon and North Dakota. One participant is working in Guatemala this summer. 

Each student receives a $2500 scholarship underwritten in part by Pfizer Animal Health."We sincerely appreciate the support we get from Pfizer to continue this program," says Angelos. "It would not be possible without Pfizer’s support and commitment to future food animal veterinarians."

Food animal practitioners are in demand on California's large dairies as well as other food animal settings. Starting salaries for food animal vets are usually higher than those of small animal practitioners.

Unlike most of their counterparts in small animal practice who deal with animals one at a time, food animal veterinarians must know how to manage the health of large herds or flocks of animals. Food animal veterinarians also have responsibilities regarding food safety and must learn appropriate protocols to prevent residues of antibiotics from remaining in livestock after treatments end.

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