2 UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE
3 RURAL VETERINARIAN STUDY FORUM
August 24, 2006
6 Ellington Plant Sciences Auditorium
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
PANEL: Dr. Joseph DiPietro, Moderator
10 Institute of Agriculture Vice-President
11 Ms. Patricia Clark,
Tennessee Department of Agriculture
Mr. Stratton Bone,
13 House Agriculture Committee Vice Chair
14 Mr. Michael Blackwell,
Dean, U.T. Veterinary School
Mr. Robert Holland,
16 U.T. Veterinary School
17 Mr. Anthony Haynes, Hosting
UT Director of State Relations
22 BARBARA L. MAPLES, COURT REPORTER
23 BROWN & WINGO COURT REPORTING
Post Office Box 2347
24 Knoxville, Tennessee 37901
FORUM IS CALLED TO ORDER:
Anthony Haynes ........................... 4
INTRODUCTION TO FORUM:
Joe DiPietro ............................. 8
DR. OSCAR WILSON, Tenn Vet Medical Assoc .......... 9
DR. DICK DAUGHERTY, Tenn Cattlemen's Assoc ........ 13
9 Assoc of Bovine Practitioners
10 LACY UPCHURCH, Tenn Farm Bureau ................... 22
11 JOHN HOUSTON, Farmers Cooperative ................. 32
12 ROGER BROOKS, Farmer, Head Walter State Ag Dept ... 40
VP Hawkins County Farm Bureau
JIM BRACE, Dean of U.T. Vet College ............... 47
LAUREL DANNER, U.T. Vet Student ................... 56
ANDREW FIDLER, VP UTCVM Class of 2008 ............. 61
MICHAEL TOWNES, U.T. Vet Student .................. 66
PAUL FUGATE, Claiborne County Beef Producer ....... 72
RICHARD HEITMANN, Veterinarian .................... 81
HUGH McCAMPBELL, Loudon County Veterinarian ....... 84
20 Past U.T. Extension Veterinarian
21 BILL HOWELL, Hamblen County Diary Farmer .......... 88
22 DAVID BRYANT, Fifth-generation producer ........... 92
23 JOHN OFFIT, McMinn County Veterinarian ............ 96
24 MARGIE CARTER, Lincoln County Veterinarian ........ 97
25 BRENT CARTER, Husband ............................. 100
1 MR. HAYNES: Good evening, everyone. If
2 you'll start taking your seats we'll kick off this
3 evening's program. My name is Anthony Haynes, I serve as
4 U.T.'s Director of State Relations, and we want to, number
5 one, welcome you to the University of Tennessee Institute
6 of Agriculture on the agriculture campus in Knoxville.
7 And also thank you and welcome you to our evening's forum
8 on looking at the presence of our veterinarians in rural
10 Most of you probably know why we are here.
11 Our office, the Office of State Relations, has agreed, in
12 working with Dr. Joe DiPietro, our Institute Dean, to help
13 host a series of forums across the state, each one in each
14 grand division of the state. That grew out of a
15 legislative interest that's been going on for a little
16 more than two years about examining what exactly is going
17 on in our rural areas.
18 We see it with doctors, we see it with
19 nurses -- Mr. Chairman, for some reason we don't seem to
20 see it with lawyers -- but in our rural areas there's
21 arguably some level of decline or transition in the number
22 of veterinarians ever present, but we've never looked at
23 that from an analytical perspective. And that's exactly
24 what our effort hopes to do.
25 At the end of last legislative session this
1 past spring, the members of the General Assembly House
2 Agriculture Committee asked the University to take a look
3 at this. And not only take a current inventory of maybe
4 not only where our veterinarians are in the state and the
5 type of practice, the market area, but overlay that with
6 the type of animal-industry need that might be there.
7 And so, this is a part of the public input
8 and state-program input process and that's why these
9 forums are so important, not only to us but also to you.
10 We are conducting these forums in the same
11 manner that usually governmental bodies, whether it's
12 Congress or state government that holds field hearings,
13 but with a little less degree of formality. We like the
14 structure that goes with them but we want it to be an open
15 session that invites diverse ideas, opinions, and possible
16 solutions that you think might need to be looked at and
17 examined in this issue.
18 We are emphasizing that these forums are not
19 a debate. What we ask is that when people come to present
20 their views, if you would present your views at one time,
21 and once you've had an opportunity at the mike let others,
22 let us work through the room. No one will be turned away
23 tonight if we're here 'til 1 o'clock in the morning. Joe
24 has agreed to do so and may even start cooking breakfast
25 somewhere down on the campus. But nonetheless, we do want
1 everyone that has something to offer to have an
2 opportunity to get that into the record.
3 As you notice, we have a court reporter here
4 with us this evening. We are collecting a transcript from
5 each one of our public forums so that all the things said
6 can be gathered. And that will not only be reviewed by
7 the U.T. agricultural staff in their analysis but copies
8 of those transcripts along with that final analysis will
9 be provided to members of the House Agriculture Committee.
10 This evening's forum will be chaired by
11 Institute of Agriculture Vice-President Dr. Joe DiPietro
12 who many of you have met and know pretty well by now.
13 From the General Assembly we have the House Agriculture
14 Committee Vice-Chairman Stratton Bone from Sumner County,
15 if I'm not mistaken? No, Wilson, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.
16 I'm geographically illiterate past Camden, Tennessee going
18 Next to him to his right we have Patricia
19 Clark who's Assistant Commissioner at the Tennessee
20 Department of Agriculture. To the left of Dr. DiPietro we
21 have the Dean of the vet school Dr. Michael Blackwell, and
22 to his left we have Dr. Robert Holland who's also with the
23 vet school, if I'm not mistaken.
24 If you're with a stakehold or organization
25 this evening that we have invited to come and would like
1 to get your statement, we would ask you to keep your
2 statement, if you could, to five to ten minutes for the
3 sake of time and allowing us to work the room. If you are
4 not representing a stakeholder organization but you wish
5 to have something to say for the record you're certainly
6 welcome to do so. Once Dr. Joe invites you to come
7 forward we would ask you maybe to keep your comments to a
8 minute or so in the interest of time.
9 We know that given the breath of the
10 different stakeholders and their organizations interested
11 here tonight, it's obvious we're going to have some
12 overlap and some redundacy of certain policy areas,
13 issue-advocacy areas, et cetera. And that's one reason
14 when we go to the general audience we ask that you somehow
15 summarize your comments in about a minute. We have found
16 that basically a lot of the recommendations and some of
17 the statements have already been previously covered.
18 So I think that that pretty much wraps up my
19 comments. If anyone has any questions we have U.T. staff
20 that is here, I think Patricia, that you met out front
21 that was registering people can be of assistance to you if
22 you have special needs. I will be floating around, feel
23 free to pull me over if you have a question or special
24 need that I might be able to help you with.
25 And with that, Joe, I think that you're
1 welcome to start our forum.
2 MR. DiPIETRO: Thank you, thanks very much,
3 Anthony. We appreciate everybody's attendance today,
4 tonight rather, and I especially appreciate the people
5 that have prepared presentations that will get our forum
6 off and running tonight. I appreciate the involvement of
7 our panel, our listed panel up here. And I thought I
8 might, before we start with our presenters, share a little
9 more information about the entire study we're conducting.
10 As Anthony said, at the request of the House
11 Ag Committee and Representative Bone and Representative
12 Gene Davis we got into this enterprise. It includes not
13 only the information that we've gathered Anthony's talked
14 about tonight within these forums -- there's one yet to go
15 after this one, which will be West Tennessee at Jackson a
16 week from tonight, and we held one in Spring Hill last
17 week in Middle Tennessee -- but in addition, there'll be
18 some survey work that is being done and conducted.
19 One survey is being done jointly between the
20 Tennessee Vet Medical Association and College of
21 Veterinary Medicine, of veterinarians. Then another
22 survey is being conducted by our Ag Economy Department,
23 Agricultural Economy Department, and those comments are
24 taking a look at surveying producers and veterinary
25 clients in an effort to get information from them. And in
1 addition, they'll be also looking at future projections,
2 and both of those should help us get information.
3 What we're about is trying to provide
4 adequate information in a uniform way, gathering
5 hopefully, so that the policymakers we have in Nashville
6 be fully equipped with information about this issue of the
7 need for veterinarians in rural communities.
8 We've heard a lot of information from
9 various people about whether there is a shortage or not,
10 and there are a lot of different perspectives, and those
11 will certainly come out tonight. And I would echo Anthony
12 in the fact that this is a forum to provide information
13 input in this process as opposed to a location or event, a
14 debate, of which perspective is right. And I'd ask, for
15 the respect of all of us, to provide a perspective to this
16 group or this body.
17 With that, I believe our first presenter is
18 Veterinarian Medical Association of Tennessee.
19 OSCAR WILSON: Oscar Wilson.
20 MR. DiPIETRO: Dr. Ford, if you'll sit down
21 here at the table, we don't bite. And sir, I'm sorry,
22 what's your name again?
23 OSCAR WILSON: Oscar Wilson.
24 MR. DiPIETRO: Mr. Wilson, thank you. Go
1 DR. OSCAR WILSON:
2 I was asked by the TVMA to try to give a
3 veterinarian's perspective as to -- as a large-animal
4 veterinarian -- as to why I feel maybe we have a shortage
5 of veterinarians and why people aren't willing to go into
6 large-animal medicine.
7 And first of all, we all realize the
8 importance of agriculture in the State of Tennessee as we
9 produce. We have 84,000 farms, over 2 million cattle and
10 produce over a billion pounds of milk, so, it's not a
11 minor point in the State of Tennessee that we're dealing
13 The importance of the veterinarian to
14 support this agriculture is paramount, and especially from
15 a public-health standpoint. And that is one of the
16 biggest things that I would like to stress is the
17 importance of the veterinarian from a public-health
19 Our goal has got to be to get more
20 veterinarians on the farm. Also, the veterinarians are so
21 important on treating the individual animals and making
22 the farmer more efficient and profitable. Last of all,
23 the veterinarian has taken on a brand new importance in
24 recent years in that we are the first line of defense in
1 So, then we look at why, if it's that
2 important of a role and it's that essential to Tennessee,
3 why aren't people assuming this position. And some of the
4 things that I see as the kids come through my clinic and
5 ride with us to try to see is this what I want to do, what
6 they're looking at is when they get out of school they're,
7 on the average, they'are going to owe about $80,000 just
8 educational debt. And they've got to have a job that will
9 allow them to service that debt.
10 And we need kids from farm backgrounds, that
11 know how these farms are working and what's important and
12 how to manage these farms from a veterinary standpoint.
13 But they've seen how the veterinarian is valued nowadays,
14 and they know not to pursue that profession. And then
15 they're looking at a minimum of seven years, maybe ten
16 years, to reach the field, you know, to reach that job.
17 And so, they've dedicated seven to ten years of their
18 life, and they need a job that can repay them for this
19 level of dedication.
20 And large-animal medicine takes a tremendous
21 amount of dedication. They've got to be available for
22 emergency services seven days a week, twenty-four hours a
23 day. If you open your own practice you're married to that
25 The big problem that the new graduates are
1 facing right now, though, is the demand for the
2 veterinarian is just not there. From what I see, the
3 farmers are not demanding their services. There's so much
4 that has been taken over and allowed to be taken over by
5 laymen in the fields, and a lot of the services that the
6 veterinarian could help the farmer tremendously in, and
7 has been trained to help them in for seven to ten years,
8 there's laymen doing these things and preying on our
10 The veterinarians just aren't used anymore,
11 you know, for diagnosis of disease and to develop the
12 preventive medicines. And so, the farmers, the drugs are
13 so readily available now that are used on the farms that
14 the veterinarian just isn't consulted. It's trial-and-
15 error medicine that the farmers, they're making the
16 decisions on their own.
17 And because of this readily available
18 vaccine and medicines and that sort of thing, that working
19 relationship between the veterinarian and the farmer just
20 isn't there. And yeah, they want them to be there to pull
21 the calves and that kind of thing, and wear that pager,
22 but when it comes to where they can help them the most and
23 make them the most profitable, the veterinarian is not on
24 the farm. We've got to get the veterinarian back on the
25 farm, and they're not being sought out for that.
1 So, what I'm saying is there's plenty of
2 veterinarians there to do the work. You've got
3 veterinarians supplementing their income, a large-animal
4 veterinarian supplementing their income by spaying dogs,
5 you know, because they're just called on for emergency
6 services. And meanwhile, the farms are using either lay
7 people or a telephone, you know, to get their needs, to
8 meet their needs.
9 And my goal tonight as a practitioner is to
10 give this opportunity back to these kids and give them a
11 job. Let's all work together. All these different
12 organizations that a year ago did not communicate, now
13 we've got them all in the same room. And that's my goal
14 tonight is, to, let's create these kids a job.
15 MR. DiPIETRO: Thank you very much, Dr.
16 Wilson. You mentioned that you've had students ride with
17 you, have some of them become veterinarians?
18 DR. WILSON: Yes they have.
19 MR. DiPIETRO: And did they get into a
20 large-animal practice or rural community practice, or do
21 you know? I don't want to put you on the spot.
22 DR. WILSON: Well for the most part, when
23 they see the level of dedication it takes and what truly
24 goes on, eight out of ten of them go a different route.
25 Now, this is highschool kids, now. I have a lot of
1 preceptors that ride with me that's already in
2 veterinarian school and pre-veterinarian programs, and
3 they tend to go ahead, but a good number of them end up in
4 small-animal practice because of the reasons that I
6 MR. DiPIETRO: Other questions from the
8 (WHEREUPON, no responses.)
9 MR. DiPIETRO: Thanks very much. Next from
10 the Tennessee Cattlemen's Association, Dr. Dick Daugherty.
11 I think we have that one as well as another one, do you
12 want to do them back to back?
13 DR. DICK DAUGHERTY: Yes.
14 MR. DiPIETRO: Alright, he's also going to
15 do a presentation on behalf of the American Association of
16 Bovine Practitioners. Welcome Dr. Daugherty.
17 DR. DICK DAUGHERTY:
18 I had intended to just come listen and wound
19 up with two presentations I suppose. First of all,
20 Tennessee Cattlemen's Association. Mr. Anthony Haynes has
21 written our executive vice-president, Luke West, and
22 wanting to know our input, and Luke has dutifully written
23 a statement that I'll give to you all when we're through.
24 Tonight, Luke is at a previously scheduled
25 beef quality-assurance training in Fayettville, and I
1 suppose while we're on the subject we can lament the fact
2 that Luke's down there and not up here and there's not a
3 veterinarian down there giving that training to producers.
4 We could carry it one step further I suppose and say there
5 are a number of mixed practitioners that are not BQA
6 certified and a few mixed practitioners that do not follow
7 BQA guidelines.
8 I'm saying this to lead up to the fact that
9 if in Tennessee on these marketing programs, these
10 marketing alliances, if it's a beef quality-assurance
11 certified sale, if it's a pre-conditioned certified sale
12 with vaccine protocol, or it's a AABP sale, any of those
13 that would require third-party verification from a
14 veterinarian, we probably couldn't handle that in
15 Tennessee. And in fact, I think we've had a little
16 difficulty handling that in Tennessee.
17 Moving on to the American Association of
18 Bovine Practitioners, I want to just read to you the
19 statement that has been faxed to me. Here again, the
20 representative that should be here is Dr. Charles Hatcher
21 who is a Tennesseean and upcoming president of AABP. And
22 he is in Kansas City at the national ID meeting, which is
23 another hot topic for another night.
24 The American Association of Bovine
25 Practitioners, or AABP, the worldwide organization
1 comprised of nearly 6,000 veterinarians from all aspects
2 of the bovine world, from private practice, academia,
3 industry research, and regulatory or public health.
4 In response to the concern of our members
5 and their clients over the perceived shortage of
6 food-supply vets, AABP and other allied organizations
7 permissioned a study called the Ander's study. The
8 Ander's study scientifically collected sound data
9 regarding the projected supply and demand for food-supply
10 debt for all species, as well as some suggestions for
11 correcting the problems.
12 Very brief summary of the Ander's study is
13 as follows:
14 "Bovine practice can expect to see demand for
15 practitioners exceeding supply. The deficit will
16 probably be a 5- to 6% shortfall each year if
17 nothing changes. Over time, there could be a
18 shortage of more that 20%. Some feel that the
19 most alarming shortage will take place in the
20 public health, food safety, and animal-health
21 regulatory sectors as the current aging vets
22 in these sectors reply."
23 I couldn't believe they put that in print.
24 Here's what they see the major role, and
25 this is sort of like what Dr. Wilson had stated
2 "Major roles of Bovine practitioners. Number
3 one, animal agriculture support; number two,
4 public health; number three, food safety; number
5 4, agri-terrorism/bio-terrorism prevention and
6 detection, including foreign animal disease;
7 number five, animal welfare; number six, global
8 market age and source verification."
9 This is the third-party deal I was talking
10 about earlier.
11 "Factors and perceptions related to students
12 chosing rural practice as a career path. Number
13 one, life experiences. Students from a rural
14 background or students who have had good
15 experiences and mentors at a rural practice or
16 vet school are far more likely to become rural
18 "Number two, perception of poor pay. A belief
19 that rural clientele are less affluent, spend
20 less on their animals, and therefore there are
21 less opportunities to practice good medicine
22 existing among students."
23 I'd have to make a comment here,
24 particularly to the education facet of this, in that,
25 practicing good medicine in this day and time with the
1 referral situation that we have, does not necessarily
2 require ultrasound or digital x-ray, that sort of thing.
3 "Number three, important, interesting, and
4 rewarding work. The small-animal practice is
5 more important, more interesting, and more
6 rewarding than food-animal practice. What's
7 more important than providing the world with safe
8 healthy food, working with farmers, and enjoying
9 mother nature at the same time.
10 "Number four, job availability. We need to do
11 a better job of letting students know what jobs
12 are available.
13 "Number five, work is too physically demanding.
14 There is a myth that large-animal work is too
15 physical for women.
16 "Number six, lifestyle issues, long hours,
17 on-call time and conflict with family time. The
18 few practices that overwork and underpay assosiates
19 need to get a lot more attention in schools than
20 the average practice."
21 Here are some solutions put forth by the
22 AABP for our member practitioners; improve our practice
23 image, emphasize the good things about rural practice and
24 disspell the misconceptions. Offer graduates good jobs,
25 pay, benefits, and time off equal to other practice type.
1 Host more students and mentor more students. Offer pay
2 externships, recruit at the highschool level and earlier.
3 Our president, in his comments in the last
4 AABP newsletter, pointed out the fact that there are I
5 think two practices in his town, and they are competing
6 for the brightest and best ninth graders. So, need to get
7 started early in recruiting our assosiates.
8 Advertise our job openings more. Alright,
9 for our organization, AABP and other organizations;
10 promote scholarship programs, provide colleges with
11 imformation packets on career opportunities to include
12 animal medicine, get more large-animal vets into the
13 colleges speaking to the students, and target
14 underclassmen, even down to the ninth-grade level.
15 Here's the recommendations for colleges:
16 Recruit more rural students, reintroduce some animal
17 science background as a condition prerequisite. It could
18 be course work, farm experience, riding with a
19 large-animal vet, or attending a workshop intended for
20 this purpose. Increase exposure of students to quality
21 food-animal veterinary instructors. Consider regional
22 training or training at regional veterinary practices for
23 food-animal medicine. Publicize scholarships, increase
24 exposure to farm animals early on to decrease the
25 physical, quote, unquote, fear factor. Educate students
1 on the diversity of bovine practice, and improve job-
2 placement services.
3 Here are recommendations for government,
4 state, or federal government: Provide student debt
5 forgivness for vets willing to practice in rural areas,
6 provide grant opportunities for establishment of practices
7 in rural areas.
8 As I was reading over this this time, it
9 dawned on me, and I forget the exact statement, but we
10 have been educating cattle producers for years, talking
11 about we're not cattle farmers, we are food producers. I
12 think the same might hold true in promoting bovine
13 practice as not being cow doctors but being a safeguard of
14 the American food supply.
15 I have copies of these. Dr. Holland, I just
16 happened to make an extra one, I heard there was four and
17 I see there are five. How are you? That concludes.
18 MR. DiPIETRO: Any questions for Dr.
19 Daugherty? Don't run off yet. Anybody?
20 MR. BONE: I thought it was very interesting
21 that you sought to try to recruit or encourage young
22 people at an early age to get involved in the profession.
23 And I think maybe that's something we need to look at
25 DR. DAUGHERTY: Mr. Bone, I believe -- this
1 is just me talking, now, not either of my organizations --
2 I believe there's more to this deal than just money, I
3 believe you got to love to fool with cattle.
4 MR. BONE: Right.
5 MS. CLARK: I'm wondering, I've been
6 thinking about this for a while and to hear you all talk
7 it makes me wonder even more, is there any kind of an
8 organized effort going on to pair up vet students with vet
9 practitioners who do not have someone that is a logical
10 expectation of the successor?
11 I guess an example, not in the veterinary
12 area but with my own family, I have a brother who is an
13 optometrist and he pairs with a fellow who's contemplating
14 retiring in the next seven to ten years and my nephew is
15 buying out the practice over time. So, I just wondered if
16 there was any organized way to pair up students with
17 practitioners contemplating retirement.
18 DR. DAUGHERTY: There's no organized effort,
19 to my knowledge, but as I read, our population is aging.
20 Here agian, I can't believe they put that in
21 black-and-white, but, that is, that's a good idea.
22 MR. DiPIETRO: Some colleges have mentoring
23 programs that allow students to mentor with a practitioner
24 through a training program or the DVM. There a mentoring
25 program here at U.T., but it's not structured around the
1 true animal issue.
2 But, you know, I would assume that the
3 bovine practitioner would be interested in the possibility
4 of maybe working with the college in that sort of a
5 program, wherever it is that family practitioner is
6 interested. The Association obviously has got a large
7 number of people who are deeply interested in looking into
9 And I would agree with you, I think that a
10 lot can be done about it to give young people an
11 opportunity to see what it's all about. And I also
12 believe it's about taking it through the system, without a
14 DEAN BLACKWELL: I'm sure you're familiar
15 with the Association of Rural Veterinarians? Are you
16 familiar with that organization?
17 DR. DAUGHERTY: Just casually.
18 DEAN BLACKWELL: I was just wondering to
19 what degree AABP is working with that association? Can
20 you speak to that or....
21 DR. DAUGHERTY: Dean Blackwell, I can't
22 answer that, no.
23 MR. DiPIETRO: Thanks very much, I
24 appreciate your remarks. Next up is President Lacy
25 Upchurch from the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation.
1 While Dr. Upchurch's presentation, I'll say
2 to the audience, if anybody wants to prepare a written set
3 of comments for us, if you'll get it to us by September
4 15th it'll be included in the package. So you can just
5 send them to either my office here on campus or Anthony
6 Haynes, but get it to us one way or the other. Go ahead,
7 Lacy, I'm sorry.
8 LACY UPCHURCH:
9 Dr. DiPietro and Representative Bone, other
10 members of this distingished panel. Dr. Daugherty and Dr.
11 Wilson, I also thank you and other people that are here to
12 discuss this. On behalf of the Tennessee Farm Bureau
13 Federation, thank you for focusing on this current, future
14 availability of large-animal veterinarians.
15 We appreciate the leadership of the
16 University in demonstrating by looking towards the future
17 and deciding now how to prepare for transition into an
18 ever-increasing urban environment and the impact that that
19 shift will have on our veterinary industry.
20 Veterinary medicine has always been
21 important to our organization. We are and have
22 historically been avid supporters within our industry and
23 our state. That support is forever recorded in the
24 history by the dedication of the building housing the
25 veterinary program. We take great pride in the Clyde M.
1 York Veterinary Medicine building, which is named after
2 our former state Farm Bureau president that served on the
3 U.T. Board of Trustees and was a true leader in Tennessee
5 Our farmer members have repeatedly expressed
6 a great deal of support for their local veterinarians and
7 our Farm Bureau policy, and I'd like to read some of our
8 policy for you.
9 "Farmers need competent well-trained large-
10 animal veterinarians within a reasonable distance.
11 Veterinarians specializing in large-animal
12 practices are an economic necessity for a strong
13 livestock sector for Tennessee agriculture. To
14 ensure the profitability of the livestock
15 operation, farmers need strong healthy animals.
16 Large-animal veterinarians help livestock
17 producers stay abreast of and have access to the
18 latest technology available for large-animal care.
19 "We encourage the University of Tennessee
20 Veterinary Medical School to emphasize the need
21 of large-animal practitioners to both current and
22 potential veterinary students. Laws and
23 regulations pertaining to veterinary practices
24 should not discourage or inhibit large-animal
1 "We further encourage Congress to insure
2 adequate funding for the Animal Disease Center
3 and Veterinary Services Laboratory. Research and
4 programs for disease control are critical in
5 maintaining a safe and healthy livestock industry."
6 Our comments tonight may very well contain
7 more questions than answers. Perhaps our questions will
8 help guide the expertise of the University of Tennessee in
9 search of the answers. As you conduct the public
10 hearings, keep in mind many individuals may not be as
11 forthcoming as you would like. Your follow-up
12 confidential survey will perhaps reveal other useful
14 No doubt the veterinary industry is
15 undergoing many changes. Veterinarians find themselves
16 faced with a number of issues and trends that are not
17 unlike those being encountered by many other professions
18 as well as the farmers that we represent. We must also
19 note that this is not just a Tennessee problem, it is a
20 problem in numerous other states and has instigated
21 several articles and studies in recent years.
22 One of the most common concerns that we've
23 heard verbally expressed by our farmer members over the
24 last few years relates to the availability of large-animal
25 veterinarians. During our recent 2006 president's
1 conference we conducted an informal poll of the leaders in
2 attendance to indentify how widespread the shortage might
4 We asked our members if an adequate supply
5 of large-animal veterinarians is located within a
6 reasonable distance of their farm. Now, let me offer this
7 disclaimer: This not a statistically valid survey, it was
8 just simply a snapshot survey of the members attending our
9 meeting. 23% of those responding believe within a
10 reasonable distance of their farm a shortage currently
11 exists. 77% believe an adequate number of large-animal
12 veterinarians currently exist near their operation.
13 Perhaps more telling was our question about
14 the expectation over the next ten years. 58% anticipate
15 such a shortage of veterinarians to develop. This
16 reflects the Bureau of Labor Statistics' prediction that
17 there will be more than 28,000 openings for veterinarians
18 by the year 2012. This is despite the fact that we have
19 2,500 students a year graduating from America's veterinary
21 The take-away of this is that nearly a
22 quarter of our members who responded are currently
23 experiencing some inconvenience from the lack of
24 large-animal veterinarians within a reasonable distance,
25 while more than half of our leaders expected to experience
1 the problem within the next ten years.
2 Is the current problem real or perceived?
3 Can we help shape the future in a way as to avoid the
4 anticipated shortage? Is there something that can be done
5 today to help the 23% who are experiencing the shortage in
6 veterinarians. How can we best identify the areas where
7 the current shortage exists, can we identify the most
8 vulnerable areas for shortages in the future?
9 As we look forward, we can't ignore the fact
10 that the first of our aging babyboomers are facing
11 retirement. Dr. Daugherty illustrated that. Will we be
12 able to fill the void of the retiring veterinarians? As
13 large-animal veterinarians retire, will there be any
14 buyers who can purchase the practice of those who are
15 retiring? Can we provide some assistance for buying out
16 the owners of such practices in order to keep services in
17 the area uninterrupted?
18 Will the next generation have different
19 goals and desires for a career in veterinary medicine?
20 Can we provide more hands-on experience for large animals
21 for students early in their studies to create a greater
22 interest and develop a better comfort level when working
23 with large animals.
24 The ever increasing U.S. household pet
25 population has increased the demand for private
1 small-animal practices. With increased revenue and
2 preferable working environments for small-animal
3 practices, how do we entice veterinarians to pursue
4 large-animal practices? If the increase in small
5 practices is an economic issue, what are the economic
6 incentives that would encourage large-animal practices?
7 Will they expect the animals to be delivered to their
8 clinic locations rather than visiting the farms?
9 We also posed another question to our Farm
10 Bureau leaders in our president's conference that revealed
11 some interesting results. We asked what do you believe to
12 be the most important issue to benefit the bottom line of
13 farmers. Included among the top three responses was the
14 concern keeping control of input costs.
15 In the current farm economy, farmers are
16 continuously looking for ways to control costs in order to
17 reduce their bottom line. Regretfully, too often the use
18 of veterinarians tends to be an expended service that can
19 easily be cut as farmers try to reduce their costs. When
20 such decisions are made, although many times out of
21 necessity, the spiral begins.
22 How do we demonstrate to farmers that
23 veterinary services are not expendable but rather pay
24 dividends to their bottom line, and how do we demonstrate
25 to the veterinarians this is important.
1 I have focused on the concerns of the farm
2 community. Perhaps the most pressing problem is not just
3 the concerns of our state's farmers. Society as a whole
4 has a stake in this dilemma, although most are totally
5 unaware of the concern. It is crucial to all society that
6 we maintain an adequate supply of veterinarians for the
7 public-health arena.
8 Our veterinarians play a significant role in
9 protecting the health of our nation. Veterinarians are on
10 the front line for those diseases that spread from animals
11 to humans, and we can't afford not to have veterinarians
12 trained to deal with bio-terrorism, emergency
13 preparedness, food safety and so forth. We must face the
14 reality of the threat posed if terrorists were to use
15 animal diseases which can spread from animals to humans as
16 biological weapons.
17 In closing, some other issues we believe the
18 University of Tennessee should consider and research as we
19 move forward. Do debt buydowns work to encourage students
20 to locate in underserved areas? Should farm/rural
21 backgrounds be a factor in entry-level requirements for
22 veterinary students? How can combination practices best
23 serve both the large-animal and the small-animal needs?
24 Do our state laws discourage large-animal practices
25 through facility and equipment requirements? Are these
1 changes that would be made or could be made by our state
2 laws to encourage large-animal practices?
3 We appreciate the opportunity to make our
4 comments today, and again we appreciate the fact that the
5 University is having these meetings to service the
6 thoughts and opinions of many of the stakeholders in this
7 really important issue. Thank you very much.
8 MR. DiPIETRO: Thank you very much,
9 President Upchurch. Questions for Mr. Upchurch?
10 DEAN BLACKWELL: Over the last few decades
11 the United States has seen quite a dramatic shift towards
12 urbanization. Farmland, past farmland is now open not
13 cattle but subdivisions and malls and other types of
14 commercial properties. Does Farm Bureau have a position
15 on what's being projected for Tennessee? And the basis
16 for this question is, of course, as we seek to meet what
17 is today's set of conditions, certainly we need to project
18 out. Is there any potential, I guess to ask it another
19 way, for us to over-correct because of those trends
20 towards urbanization?
21 MR. UPCHURCH: Dr. Blackwell, there's
22 really, in the eyes of our Farm Bureau organization, a
23 really thin line. When you talk about property rights, if
24 you're not careful when you talk about some way to keep
25 from urbanization you also may keep some farmer from
1 selling his farm, you know, his retirement, in any case.
2 DEAN BLACKWELL: Sure. Yes.
3 MR. UPCHURCH: But the thing that really
4 concerns us more than anything is that people moving into
5 suburban and urban areas are sometimes two and three
6 generations removed from agriculture, and they have very
7 little knowledge and understanding, and sometimes very
8 little appreciation, for where their food comes from.
9 And I think it's really important for us as
10 an organization to do a better job of teaching those
11 people of how important agriculture is and the farms and
12 green space that are around them. And, you know,
13 sometimes they move into suburban areas because they like
14 the view of some farmer's land.
15 DEAN BLACKWELL: Yes.
16 MR. UPCHURCH: And then they don't
17 understand when he starts to spread manure or if he uses
18 chemicals on his crops and so forth, or he cuts a tree.
19 And that's the educational part that we have to develop a
20 better understanding of our urban neighbors.
21 MR. DiPIETRO: Robert?
22 DEAN HOLLAND: It's recognized that
23 successful veterinary practices, veterinarians in those
24 practices often are well established, very well respected
25 in the community. Do you have a feel, if there's a true
1 shortage of rural veterinarians, how many communities in
2 the state would come together to help support moving
3 practices or support rural veterinarians practicing in
4 these communities?
5 MR. UPCHURCH: That's a very good question
6 and a question that we need to address. I think we would
7 get good support in many of the areas that lack
8 veterinary-practice support, and I think they're extremely
9 important. And at this time I'm not sure where those
10 areas are or how many exist, I just know that there is a
11 perception or a reality, one, among a lot of our members
12 that those veterinarians are not available.
13 And I appreciate the comments very much from
14 Dr. Daugherty and Dr. Wilson and I think it's really an
15 area where we need to work together as farmers and
16 veterinarians. And we're doing more of that now from a
17 talking standpoint to study these issues, and I think
18 we'll address many of those and come to some answers, with
19 the help of the University of Tennessee Veterinary School.
20 MS. CLARK: Mr. Upchurch, I don't think that
21 I'm aware of any actual survey information on this, but, I
22 just wonder if anecdotedly in some of the conferences and
23 some of the meetings that you have, does it seem that
24 farmers are having a more difficult time getting
25 veterinarians to come out to their farms? I noticed in
1 your comments you mentioned whether or not that the large
2 vet practice would anticipate that the farmers bring the
3 animals to the practice rather than the practice coming
4 out to the farm, is that a problem?
5 MR. UPCHURCH: Well I think more and more
6 farmers in areas that may not have a veterinary close by
7 or available that will do large-animal work, I think they
8 are taking their animals to locations maybe in the next
9 county or whatever. And, you know, this is the day of
10 more reliable transportation and that sort of thing, I
11 think some of that could be done.
12 And I think it would be better if we could
13 have a real good viable large-animal veterinary practice
14 in every county that would do both small-animal or
15 large-animal or just large-animal. There's just a lot of
16 problems that we need to look at to address that
17 particular situation.
18 MR. DiPIETRO: Thank you very much,
19 President Upchurch. We appreciate you coming all this way
20 to help us out a little bit. Next up, from the Farmer's
21 Coop, Mr. John Houston.
22 JOHN HOUSTON:
23 Good evening. I appreciate the opportunity
24 that we have to present our statement to you on behalf of
25 Tennessee Farmers Coop. As a way of introduction, just
1 let me give you a brief synopsis of Tennessee Farmers
3 Tennesee Farmers Cooperative, or TFC, is a
4 regional farm-supply cooperative that was originally
5 founded in 1945. TFC's operations include feedmills,
6 fertilizer facilities and warehouses in Jackson, Laverne,
7 and just outside of Knoxville. TFC is owned by 61 member
8 cooperatives that are independently owned and operated,
9 and each of our member coops are in turn owned by the
10 local farmers. TFC's member cooperatives collectively
11 operate about 150 retail locations throughout Tennessee,
12 serving the approximately 70,000 farmers that own these 61
13 member cooperatives.
14 The basic question for this forum is to what
15 extent there is a shortage of large-animal veterinarians
16 in the State of Tennessee. The general perception is that
17 there is a shortage of large-animal veterinarians or that
18 there will be a shortage. There is also some concensus
19 that there is an existing shortage of veterinarians who
20 are willing to perform the services provided by
21 large-animal producers for a charge the producers are
22 willing to pay.
23 But considering the demographics of
24 large-animal veterinarians, the most concentrated areas of
25 beef and dairy cattle are probably adequately covered.
1 For example, nine of the top ten Tennessee beef cattle
2 counties are all within 100-mile radius. This 100-mile
3 radius seems to be well served by large-animal
5 Of the top ten dairy counties, four are
6 within a 60-mile radius and two are within a 30-mile
7 radius, and the remaining four are within the same radius
8 as the beef counties, all of which seem to be served well
9 by large-animal veterinarians.
10 From there, those situations become more
11 problematic. Economics appear to begin playing a major
12 role in veterinarian and producer practices. The top ten
13 beef and dairy counties represent many of the large
14 producers in the state but do not necessarily represent
15 the majority of the state's cattle.
16 It does not appear that veterinarians in
17 areas with less animal density can readily justify seeing
18 large-animals away from the clinic, nor does there appear
19 to be a willingness by producers to justify the expense of
20 farm business. Veterinary clinics are businesses, the
21 same as farms, and both must operate properly.
22 Therefore, it appears that simple economics
23 may be a substantial contributing factor to the perception
24 that there is shortage of large-animal veterinarians.
25 Veterinary practices that concentrate more on on companion
1 animals are apparently more lucrative than large-animal
2 practices, especially in the light of the debt load and
3 startup capital facing veterinarians just out of school.
4 Farming and veterinary practices are
5 constantly evolving, and must continue to evolve in a way
6 that is economical for both. Much emphasis has been
7 placed in recent years on producers becoming more self-
8 reliant in caring for their animals or performing animal
9 health practices, and gains made in this area should not
10 be eroded.
11 While there must be reasonable safeguards,
12 producers wish and demand to reasonably provide healthcare
13 to their animals without a sense of bureaucracy or the
14 threat of having charges brought against them for
15 violating the veterinary practice act.
16 It is expected that producers will continue
17 to become more self-reliant on day-to-day animal health
18 issues and that veterinary services for large-animals will
19 become more technical, diagnostic, or related to emergency
20 procedures. Although this may not be the most desirable
21 situation, it must be anticipated, since the economics
22 then begin to work better both for veterinarians and
24 With the changes in large-animal business
25 practices, many essential services are being neglected or
1 are simply not being done. Tennessee Farmers Cooperative
2 recognizes that farmers were not getting consulting
3 services that they needed, nor were farmers always able to
4 obtain maintenance animal-health supplies at a competitive
6 In response, TFC hired a staff veterinarian.
7 This veterinarian, through Coop Vet Health Incorporated,
8 has provided consulting services to producers with an
9 emphasis on reviewing farming operations and providing
10 services directed at animal-health maintenance. While
11 some in the agricultural community have not embraced TFC's
12 hiring of a veterinarian, it would be difficult to deny
13 that there is an ever increasing void between large-animal
14 producers and veterinarians as a whole.
15 The practice of veterinary medicine in
16 Tennessee appears to be going through some sharp growing
17 pains. As a producer demand for veterinary consulting
18 services and competitive animal-health products increases,
19 so will the necessity for innovative solutions to this
20 problem. More formal alliances between the corporate
21 world and veterinarians may be needed. Further
22 legislative definition of acceptable producer
23 animal-health practices may also be needed.
24 Veterinarians are a vital part of the
25 agricultural community, and issues such as those addressed
1 by this forum must not be divisive. Instead, these
2 discussions should be used as opportunities to seek
3 reasonable and workable solutions. Tennessee Farmers
4 Cooperatice welcomes the opportunity to offer input and
5 will continue to cooperate on these issues in any way that
6 we can.
7 As a side remark, let me say that our
8 statement is in no way intended to be the solution to the
9 problem, but, we think we could be part of a solution.
10 Thank you.
11 MR. DiPIETRO: Thank you very much, Mr.
12 Houston. Any questions?
13 DEAN BLACKWELL: I wanted to explore a
14 little bit further the self-reliant position. I
15 understand, personally, and appreciate the pressure
16 bringing that up, as the pressures are helping to present
17 that as a potential solution, part of a solution.
18 But I'd also like to pick up on a statement
19 made by Dr. Wilson, and certainly I know others, have some
20 concern about solutions that would remove the licensed
21 trained professional from that front line of defense just
22 dealing with regular diseases, livestock diseases, and
23 then we throw into the mix foreign-animal diseases and of
24 course those that are potential acts with respect to bio-
25 and/or agri-terrorism. What concerns do you have about
1 that or how do we reconcile what may be....
2 MR. HOUSTON: In response to your question,
3 Dr. Blackwell, Dr. Wilson mentioned the lay people doing
4 some of these things, that's one of the reasons that we
5 hired a veterinarian on our staff, one of the reasons that
6 we certainly would like to hire more veterinarians as the
7 opportunity presented itself. So that we do have someone
8 who has credentials to make recommendations and to consult
9 farmers on the things that they're doing. Also, the
10 self-reliant producer.
11 You know, the University of Tennessee
12 Department of Agriculture, Cooperatives, even
13 veterinarians, they spend a lot of money doing BQA
14 certifications and master-beef programs training producers
15 to do a lot of these things themselves but do them right.
16 Dr. Daugherty testified just earlier about
17 Luke West doing BQA certification down in Lincoln County,
18 Lincoln County is in the top ten, those top ten beef
19 cattle counties that I mentioned. And our veterinarian at
20 the Coop has been recognized last year at TCA's annual
21 meeting as certifying more BQA producers in the State of
22 Tennessee than anyone else in the state.
23 So those are the reasons that we feel like
24 the corporate world can utilize veterinarians to help I
25 guess move away from lay people, if you will, making those
2 DEAN BLACKWELL: Just to follow-up on that,
3 I appreciate your mentioning the solutions that you all
4 are seeking, but we are of course exploring what's working
5 and what's not working. And I think it's probably public
6 knowledge that there's some concern about whether one
7 veterinarian covering the state can stay within the law as
8 far as their client/veterinarian relationship.
9 I guess my question is, if that model is to
10 play out, can it really be done with one vet; and if not,
11 does TFC plan to hire more?
12 MR. HOUSTON: Let me answer the first part
13 of your question. Every farm in every county of the State
14 of Tennessee know one veterinarian cannot handle that.
15 The specific accounts that our veterinarian handles, yes,
16 it's very adequate and very possible with the means that
17 transportation and the fact that he does no small-animal
18 work and that fact that he's in the field every day.
19 And it's a specific number of accounts. No
20 one veterinarian cannot cover every farm in every state,
21 in every county in the state. Yes, certainly we would
22 like -- speaking for myself, I'm not senior management --
23 but certainly I think we would hope some day we could work
24 together with the veterinary community to provide a small
25 part of the solution to this problem.
1 DEAN HOLLAND: As you anticipate adding more
2 veterinarians, what services do you anticipate adding with
3 additional those veterinarians?
4 MR. HOUSTON: I guess that depends on what
5 the demographics are and what are the demands for those
6 services are. Certainly, today we don't offer all the
7 services that the gentleman who testified offer, but
8 that's basically the reason we're here, quite frankly, is
9 because most veterinarians don't offer those services.
10 But certainly, we would like to expand those
11 services in areas where they're needed. And of course
12 that would be senior-management's decision, but those are
13 some of the things that I would like to see happen in
14 working with the vet schools and local practitioners in
15 doing that.
16 MR. DiPIETRO: Thank you very much, Mr.
17 Houston, we appreciate your comments. Next we have Mr.
18 Roger Brooks with us who's a local farmer and producer.
19 ROGER BROOKS:
20 We have a beef and cow operation background
21 and I also have horses. In that capacity I do have a
22 working relationship with a veterinarian, we have a very
23 good working relationship.
24 Secondly, I'm here as vice-president of the
25 Hawkins County Farm Bureau, and I have been associated
1 with the Farm Bureau as a board member for most of the
2 last 25 years. My father was a board member at the time
3 that the push was made to get the establishment of the
4 College of Veterinary Medicine here at the University, and
5 of course the Farm Bureau was a major player in the
6 establishment of that college.
7 And I've got to be bluntly honest with you,
8 that the product that my father thought that you would
9 turn out is not the product that is coming out of the vet
10 school today. His vision of the product in that day would
11 be that you would be turning out a good stout man who
12 would come out and pull calves, or be on call seven days a
13 week 24 hours a day, et cetera.
14 So there are those people within our
15 community and within the state who have those feelings.
16 I'm sure you've heard that when you look at the ratio of
17 the male-female population in the vet school, and also
18 what some people would call the country dog and cat vets
19 versus the ones that go out and work on cattle. So that's
20 the second thing.
21 Thirdly, I want to spend a little more time
22 on this because I'm a little unique in this role in that
23 I'm also the head of the agricultural department at Walter
24 State Community College in Morristown. And in that
25 position, Walter State has, by state law or by the way
1 we're established, we serve a ten-county service area. By
2 definition legally those ten counties are all rural.
3 We've got the counties just east of Knoxville, just west
4 of Tri-Cities.
5 So, I work with the students who come
6 through the program, students who we think some of them
7 could be potentially good hardworking vets. Because this
8 ten-county area that we serve according to the Tennessee
9 Department of Agriculture, there's almost 13,000 farms,
10 many of those are certainly small but about 13,000 farms.
11 More than likely, you've got quite a few families living
12 on those farms.
13 On those farms, according to the Tennessee
14 Department of Agriculture's website, you've got almost
15 300,000 beef cows -- beef cattle, that's cattle and calves
16 -- inventory. That's lot of large-animal exposure. I can
17 tell you, and the vets certainly know this, we've got an
18 exploding number of horses coming into the area, the horse
19 population in Tennessee is just skyrocketing. As well as
20 we're seeing more goats and a certain few sheep in 4-H
22 But the important product for these farms in
23 these ten counties that are just east of where we're
24 sitting right now, is that if you've got that many farms
25 you're not only producing cattle, you're producing young
1 people. And those young people in those counties are the
2 one that's got the real interest in 4-H, they've got the
3 real interest in showing cattle, they show horses, they've
4 got a few in highschool rodeo, we've got all the
5 large-animal interest there in 4-H.
6 They get to highschool and a lot of them go
7 to the ag program in the highschool, they're in FFA. So
8 over the run, if you start with your own agricultural
9 extension service starting in fourth grade, by the time
10 they graduate highschool you've already had nine years of
11 contact with some of these young people.
12 Now, we get a number of those coming through
13 the program at Walter State. Right now we've got about a
14 hundred agricultural majors; the number-one interest area
15 is pre-vet, they tell you that on the frontend. Now, why
16 do a lot of them not make it down here at U.T.? Well,
17 there's four major subject areas; math being a big one
18 with a lot of students, but also physics, organic
19 chemistry, and biology.
20 Now, I work with a lot of these young
21 people, and, you know, when they come in you have to
22 realize that many of these students have not really
23 concentrated on their science and math areas that prepare
24 'em very well for anything in college, let alone what the
25 curriculum is in college of veterinary medicine.
1 We don't want dummies for veterinarians, but
2 I'm just saying that at some point in the selection
3 process, if you want to potentially get a few more
4 large-animal vets, that's what this is about, then we
5 probably need to rethink the recruiting process. And
6 somebody already mentioned back to the ninth grade, or
7 maybe even earlier in my opinion, but we also may want to
8 look at the admission process.
9 And I'm not criticizing what we have, I'm
10 just saying there may need to be some actual recruitment
11 or some selection criteria that would look at someone who
12 actually has been handling cattle or handling horses a
13 long time rather than some of these who have just, you
14 know, filled out one of these little career questionnaires
15 when they came through our career counseling session and
16 they're interesting in being a vet because the last time
17 they went and had their cat at the vet, or they worked on
18 their dog, they got real impressed with the veterinarian
19 that did a good job and all of a sudden, bam, I want to be
20 a veterinarian.
21 MR. DiPIETRO: Thank you, Mr. Brooks.
22 Questions for Mr. Brooks?
23 DEAN BLACKWELL: Mr. Brooks, if those folks
24 are coming from backgrounds where they stem just from
25 science technology, mathematics and engineering and are
1 here on our campus, but that doesn't count so to speak, if
2 they're coming from that strong a background, do you think
3 they -- I want to be clear -- if they're in the recruiting
4 process early and we told them those are very important
5 disciplines to being successful not only academically in
6 the program but also, more importantly, having the right
7 tools eventually besides the background that they had
8 pre-skilled in these animal systems, would they buy into
9 working hard in those areas?
10 MR. BROOKS: Well, I seriously doubt it, to
11 be honest with you. I think it needs to be emphasized,
12 but so many of these people, even when I speak with them
13 as 18-, 19-year-olds, they have a hard time correlating
14 the need to be in organic chemistry with getting them to
15 where they can pull a calf or take a blood sample on a
17 MR. DiPIETRO: Do very many of them think
18 about the professional role?
19 MR. BROOKS: We have a great interest and a
20 significant number of students who go to LMU and go to the
21 vet program after they have come and seen just really
22 what's involved to become a vet. And I think that, I
23 know, that there's a lot of interest in the vet tech
25 MR. DiPIETRO: Other questions?
1 DEAN BLACKWELL: I do. Mr. Brooks, I see
2 you as something as a real VIP given your dad's
3 involvement with the veterinary college, something I hope
4 you're proud of, that work that he did along with others.
5 MR. BROOKS: (Moving head up and down.)
6 DEAN BLACKWELL: And I'm sure at that time,
7 not only your dad but probably no one, predicted the
8 population trends we've seen -- and it's not only been in
9 medicine, it's engineering, it's law, it's human medicine
10 -- most college students today are female, not male. The
11 United States is on a very dangerous path, some would say.
12 And so, the good news is we probably reflect the United
13 States in more ways than one, the bad news is we probably
14 reflect the United States in more ways than one.
15 I can tell you, though, that that's a
16 subject that is often raised in the college, how can we
17 best insure that diversity. And we're happy to report,
18 actually, the class we just admitted this year is 25%,
19 almost 30% male. That's a change, it's been running only
20 about 20% male for years. And that increase didn't happen
21 by accident, we are taking some steps to try and balance
23 So, I hope that you will take that back as a
24 sign that we really can appreciate the work that he did
25 and others did and are thankful for their vision.
1 MR. DiPIETRO: Thank you very much, Mr.
3 MR. BROOKS: He also wonders why he can't
4 find a doctor with a last name he can pronounce.
6 MR. DiPIETRO: Well you can just call me
9 MR. DiPIETRO: Alright, next we have
10 Vice-President Dean Jim Brace and his students from the
11 College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Brace, we're pleased
12 you're here tonight.
13 DEAN JIM BRACE:
14 Thank you for the opportunity to address the
15 panel. The University of Tennessee and the Institute of
16 Agriculture and all of us are pleased and interested to be
17 a part of this process to determine the cause for the lack
18 of graduate students interested in practicing farm or
19 food-animal medicine in the rural communities.
20 The problem is not limited to Tennessee,
21 rather it is both a national and international problem.
22 It is likely there's multiple factors that have an effect
23 on a number of veterinary graduates chosing farm or
24 food-animal practice as careers; including the
25 urbanization of Tennessee -- and America, for that matter
1 -- the economic issues, including the income the
2 veterinary graduates desire and need, paybacks of
3 significant educational debtloads, generational lifestyle
4 issues, the relative lack of good farm-animal veterinary
5 mentors, gender issues, admission criteria in colleges of
6 medicine, and there are probably several others.
7 The 2000 United States census found that .7%
8 of the United States population listed farming, fishing,
9 and forestry as occupations, while another 1.9% listed
10 agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting and mining as
11 occupations. For the State of Tennessee the numbers are
12 similar: Only 6% and 1.4% respectively listed those
13 various occupations.
14 The State of Tennessee, for the College of
15 Veterinary classes, the 2008 are current third-year
16 students, 2009 are current second-year students, and 2010
17 are current first-year students that started class
18 yesterday. 16%, 15% and 9% of those listed respectively
19 were raised on a farm or a small town with a population of
20 less than 1,000. And another 33%, 33% and 35% of
21 admitting students respectively were raised in a small
22 town with a population between 1,000 and 25,000.
23 The College of Veterinary student body does
24 not reflect the United States or the Tennessee population.
25 There are more students in the college with rural
1 backgrounds enrolled in DVM programs than you would expect
2 if you only considered population demographics.
3 In addition, students enrolled in college in
4 the three classes I just mentioned, were given a survey to
5 determine which animals are owned by them or by their
6 immediate families, meaning parents, grandparents,
7 brothers and sisters. I'll just run across the
8 percentages. 43% to 51% of those students where their
9 immmediate families owned horses, 25 to 31% owned cattle,
10 6 to 12% sheep, 14 to 22% goats, 13 to 27% pigs. And then
11 if you look at dogs and cats, 96 to 98% for dogs and about
12 83 to 93% for cats. Cat numbers are decreasing.
13 One looks at the majors of veterinary
14 students in UTK, 44% of the students in the Class for 2009
15 majored in animal science or agriculture, while 35% of the
16 students that are currently first-year Class 2010 majored
17 in animal science, agriculture or veterinary science. 59%
18 of the students in the second-year class took one or more
19 animal-science course classes, and this includes those
20 that majored in animal science.
21 For the Class of 2010, 49% of the students
22 took one or more animal-science courses, 40% took three
23 more animal-science courses. And both groups include
24 animal-science majors. The age for the students in the
25 Class of 2010 runs from 21 to 50. The mean age is
1 approximately 24, 23.7 I believe.
2 We also polled the students and asked them
3 when they developed their strongest interest in a career
4 in veterinary medicine. The range was between the ages of
5 3 and 26, and the mean was 11 and the median was 10. So,
6 while highschool is important, we need to be in middle
8 The DVM curriculum has required externship
9 in the senior year where the veterinary students are
10 required a minimum four weeks and a maximum eight to ten
11 weeks available of educational clinical experiences, often
12 typically in private practices. The graduates of the
13 Classes of 2004, 2005 and 2006, the number of two-week
14 experiences, including farm and food-animal practices and
15 mixed-animal practices, was as follows; 13.7% and 14.7%
16 and 12.8%. The 2006 class, that's preliminary data and I
17 haven't finished tabulating those also.
18 For these same classes, the number of
19 two-week clinical experiences in the exclusively or
20 primarily equine practice has increased significantly,
21 from 7.6% in the Class of 2004 to nearly 21% in the Class
22 of 2006. While I don't know why there was a significant
23 increase in this equine-practice interest I do wonder how
24 much the American Association of Equine Practitioners
25 senior-student educational program has had an effect on
1 that interest.
2 Each year for the past several years AAP has
3 invited four or five veterinary students from all of the
4 veterinary colleges in the United States to send their
5 students, paid for, to Rudeville Veterinary Practice (so,)
6 in Lexington so they have a full-day discussion on what it
7 means to be an equine practitioner and what it takes to do
9 I can't prove that that increase is due to
10 that but I can wonder how much it has played a role in it.
11 And I think eventually it's significant in looking at AAP
12 and getting some people who are bovine practitioners in
13 terms of mentoring would be very important.
14 Over the past three years the College of
15 Veterinary Medicine has had between 464 and 767 applicants
16 for 70 positions in each class. The majority of the
17 applicant pool, anywhere from 76 to 80% of it is,
18 nationwide, is female. And we are representatively above
19 that, ours is 76 to 80%.
20 And the majority are also from out of state.
21 Approximately one out of every two and-a-half to three, at
22 the most, Tennessee applicants are admitted to the College
23 of Veterinary Medicine. Depending on how you want to look
24 at the out-of-state figures, anywhere from 3 to 20% are
25 non-resident in our DVM program.
1 The Class of 2010 that began Wednesday has
2 51 Tennessee residents and 19 non-residents, and it has a
3 few more men in percentage that Dr. Blackwell mentioned.
4 Salary requirements for new graduates and
5 educational debt are, I believe, major factors which guide
6 career decisions made by graduates. The median debt load
7 for graduates with debt -- with debt, not the entire class
8 but those with debt -- in the Class of 2003, 2004, 2005
9 was $70,000, $80,000 and $80,000.
10 The figures for the Class of 2006 are still
11 to be tabulated. I doubt if it will be under $80,000, but
12 they're not out yet.
13 The starting salaries for these three
14 classes relatively have ranged from a low of $19,500 to a
15 high of $58,000 for the class graduating 2003, $20,000 to
16 $60,000 for those in 2004, and $20,000 and $65,000 for
17 those in 2005. Good thing is it's trended up a little.
18 Emphasis on the "little". The median salary, however, for
19 these three classes has been static all three years at
21 Debt-load reduction will be of major
22 importance in curriculum graduates who are in farm or
23 food-animal practice to continue in this career path. The
24 National Veterinary Medical Service Act of 2003 is a step
25 in that direction, but it's not been funded adequately at
1 all by the Federal Government.
2 The Kansas Legislature in conjunction with
3 the Kansas State University's College of Veterinary
4 Medicine passed a bill in July of this year, 2006, in
5 which up to five first-year veterinary students,
6 preferably Kansas residents, can enter into an agreement
7 with the college to complete advanced training in the
8 subject of public health, livestock style and security,
9 foreign-animal disease and diagnosis, regulatory
10 veterinary medicine and disease, and an externship and
11 administrative requirement with a license to practice
12 veterinary in rural Kansas.
13 And they must then engage, following
14 graduation within 90 days, full-time practice of
15 veterinary medicine in a county in Kansas which has a
16 population of 35,000 or less at the time that they make
17 the agreement.
18 For making such a commitment, these
19 students, each student will receive a $20,000 scholarship
20 each year that they are enrolled in the College of
21 Veterinary Medicine, the maximum being $80,000 at the end
22 of four years. And then for every year that they practice
23 in this rural community with a population of less than
24 35,000, 35,000 or less depending upon the agreement,
25 $20,000 or one year's worth of that loan will be forgiven.
1 I think that most likely this could be very
2 helpful in stimulating continued interest in farm animal
3 veterinary practice. I don't think it takes into
4 consideration some of the other financial needs of the
5 graduate. It's great that they potentially will have no
6 debt at the end of four years, very significant, but it
7 doesn't take into consideration startup costs that may be
8 necessary if one of these counties has no veterinary in
9 it. They may need to outfit themselves with a mobile unit
10 or a land-based practice. Those are substantial but more
11 easily done if one does not have a significant debt load.
12 Thank you very much for this opportunity to
13 speak. Any questions?
14 MS. CLARK: Dr. Brace, I guess we've talked
15 in a couple of the other presentations about the number of
16 women who are going through the vet school, and then one
17 of the early presentations it was discussed as to the
18 choice of large-animal versus small-animal was a personal
19 choice and whether or not you love the large animals.
20 Is there a real impediment for a female
21 veterinarian who wants to do a large-animal practice? Is
22 there a physical impediment not made up for in new
23 technologies that would keep a woman from having a good
24 large-animal practice?
25 DEAN BRACE: Absolutely not. Any one of you
1 on the panel cannot push around a 1,000 pound bull any
2 easier than a 125- or 135-pound woman. You have to use
3 your smarts to be effective, you use people to work with
4 you that are going to help you. Absolutely not, I don't
5 think there's anything at all physically that prevents a
6 woman from being an excellent large-animal veterinarian.
7 MS. CLARK: So I guess it's more of a matter
8 of choice that they are fewer?
9 DEAN BRACE: Well 17% of the women
10 veterinarians in the United States, if you look at any DVM
11 data are in large-animal practice. That does not include
12 just farming, okay? So, it is a personal choice,
14 And I don't think your gender makes any
15 difference wherever you come from when you go to
16 veterinarian school and you have a career path in mind.
17 And then you can change your mind or you are confirmed in
18 that career path based on your experiences. And any
19 opportunities and experiences you have through that school
20 and summers, et cetera, working, all those shape you.
21 MS. CLARK: So if we start with those young
22 girls in middle school just like with the young boys in
23 middle school, we might still develop our large-animal
24 choices a little bit better?
25 DEAN BRACE: Without a doubt. Yeah, without
1 a doubt. I don't know the exact number of seniors in the
2 Class of 2007, those graduating in May of 2007, but just
3 trying to think of who I helped arrange externships at the
4 dairy farms or beef-cattle operations, there's a
5 reasonable group. There's not hundreds of them, now,
6 there's five to eight, something like that, but equally
7 split between men and women. There may be one or two more
8 men, but it's close to equally split between men and
10 MR. DiPIETRO: Thank you, Dr. Brace. Why
11 don't you introduce your aspired colleagues?
12 DEAN BRACE: It is my pleasure. I've asked
13 three students in the College of Veterinary Medicine if
14 they could come tonight and provide some information.
15 We'll just go alphabetically, so we'll start with Ms.
16 Laurel Danner. Ms. Danner is a native of Queens,
17 Virginia, we'll follow with Mr. Andrew Kidwell who is from
18 Tennessee, and Michael Towne XXX from Hartford, Tennessee.
19 LAUREL DANNER:
20 Hi. My name is Laurel Danner and I'm a
21 third-year vet student here at U.T. And I've wanted to be
22 a veterinarian for as long as I can remember, and I wanted
23 be a large-animal vet about equally as long, ever since I
24 helped my grandpa pull calves when I was about 10. I
25 guess I fit right into that median.
1 Being raised with beef cattle has given me
2 experience and inspiration to head down the long road to
3 become a large-animal vet. And I'm not very big but I
4 have pulled a calf, so, it can be done.
5 About a year ago, however, my career plan
6 started to shift, and as of now I am no longer planning to
7 pursue a DVM, or veterinarian career. My decision has
8 been very difficult and full of many pro/con lists, but
9 there have been some major factors that have influenced my
10 decision; economics, training, opportunities and
12 The first and possibly the largest factor
13 influencing my decision has been economic feasibility.
14 I'm an out-of-state student here at the college, and since
15 my acceptance tuition has increased $9,000. If tuition
16 hikes increase continues into next year, I will have paid
17 an extra $26,000 in tuition fees by the time I graduate
18 with my DVM.
19 These astronomical tuition increases are
20 compunded by the lack of scholarship opportunities
21 available for veterinary students, food-animal interest
22 students in particular. I have applied to several
23 scholarships with independent organizations and received
24 some funding from the University. However, these
25 scholarships combined don't even make up for the tuition
2 Small-animal organizations such as the
3 American Kennel Club offer scholarship monies qualified on
4 small-animal interests. That's not to say that there
5 aren't scholarships available for food-animal interests,
6 there just aren't as many. I know that Bovine
7 Practitioners of Tennessee does offer some funding and the
8 USDA offers some incentive for food-animal interest
10 In addition to tutition hikes and limitied
11 scholarship funds, the economic incentive post-graduation
12 is less desirable than other fields. As an out-of-state
13 student with no undergraduate funds, I will have acquired
14 a student-loan debt of approxiamtley $170,000 as of May
15 2008. Food-animal veterinarians in rural areas do not
16 make large salaries, and with the student loans that are
17 breaking $200,000 I'm faced with a lot of payments and few
18 funds to pay them with.
19 Another important factor influencing my
20 decision to move away from food-animal medicine is the
21 lack of training provided at the Veterinary College. Our
22 general medicine is kind of put on the back burner here.
23 We have a wonderful staff of large-animal veterinarians
24 but they are not given the same opportunity to teach
25 large-animal clinical skills as the small-animal
2 This past year, the second-year class was
3 only offered one large-animal elective, the "Large Animal
4 Clinical Skills." This elective did not focus on food
5 animal but rather sought to consolidate equine and
6 food-animal clinical skills into one elective course.
7 Core courses also place less emphasis on
8 food-animal medicine and clinical skills. In the
9 anesthesia course, students were given an opportunity to
10 catheterize, intubate, induce and maintain canine and
11 feline surgery patients.
12 For the large-animal portion of the course
13 the only exposure we were given was observing equine
14 catheterization and caprine intubation. We were offered
15 no hands-on experience, nor were we able to observe bovine
16 or equine anesthesia. Additionally, in the surgery course
17 students were given the opportunity to perform
18 small-animal surgery. In the large-animal section of the
19 course we did not even get to observe surgery, let alone
20 participate in one.
21 Clubs at UT are also skewed towards
22 small-animal inclined. There is only one food-animal
23 club. Many other colleges have clubs sponsored by
24 organizations such as the AAP who help fund student trips
25 to conventions such as the upcoming AAP convention in
1 Indianapolis. If the number of clubs increased it would
2 allow for more wetlabs and speakers to educate interested
3 students on food-animal practice, providing more exposure.
4 The lack of experience opportunities does
5 not stop at the University, however. Small-animal clinics
6 such as Banfield offer veterinary students paid summer
7 experience. There are no equivocal programs available for
8 food-animal students. Many experience opportunities are
9 volunteer-based, making it difficult for students to earn
10 money over the summer and gain experience in the
11 food-animal field.
12 I feel unprepared to enter the veterinary
13 profession of food-animal practitioner as the result of
14 diminished hands-on training available to me, making me
15 feel less inclined to dive into a field I feel I know
16 little about.
17 Job incentives are another factor that is
18 leading me away from my field. In addition to low
19 starting and average salaries, job locations and hours are
20 sometimes limiting. Job availability appears to be
21 abundant in some areas and absent in others. A
22 small-animal practitioner can find a job after graduation
23 virtually anywhere, versus a food-animal practitioner that
24 is limited to specific areas of the country.
25 Food-animal practitioner hours are often
1 long and variable, with late-night emergencies and farm
2 calls. Although every veterinary practice has
3 emergencies, small-animal medicine offers referral centers
4 and emergency clinics, making regular hours a little bit
5 more feasible.
6 Ultimately, although I still really enjoy
7 food-animal medicine I'm still considering a mixed-animal
8 practice. Entering the food-animal profession is becoming
9 less feasible economically and educationally. Thank you.
10 MR. DiPIETRO: Thank you. Any questions?
11 (WHEREUPON, no responses.)
12 MR. DiPIETRO: Thank you very much. Next
13 up, Dr. Brace?
14 DEAN BRACE: Mr. Andrew Fidler.
15 ANDREW FIDLER:
16 My name is Andrew Fidler. In the two years
17 since entering the College of Veterinary Medicine my
18 career focus shifted from suburban small-animal practice
19 to rural food-animal or mixed-animal practice. I believe
20 this change occurred largely because of evolving personal
21 interest, but the breath of the U.T. Veterinary curriculum
22 and support of local food-animal veterinarians stimulated
23 and reassured my changing interests.
24 I grew up in a suburb of Nashville with a
25 family not involved in medicine, science or agriculture in
1 any way. My animal experience, therefore, came largely in
2 the form of working for a private small-animal clinic in
3 an affluent suburb of Nashville. Entering veterinary
4 school, I could only envision myself becoming a
5 small-animal private practitioner, because that is all I
6 knew of veterinary medicine at the time.
7 Over the last couple of years, however, I
8 found that a rural food-animal practice would more closely
9 reflect my career goals and lifestyle. I enjoy working
10 with food animals, working outdoors, and working in
11 smaller communities. I made a career goal to involve
12 supporting both animal and food health and having a large
13 impact on my community.
14 Working in agriculture, I would be able to
15 improve the health of food animals while helping producers
16 become more profitable, thereby economically supporting my
17 community. I also hope to do international volunteer
18 work. The career of a food-animal veterinarian will allow
19 me to directly apply my experience and improve the health
20 of animals as well as communities in developing countries.
21 Due to my lack of an agricultural
22 background, howerver, I probably would not have considered
23 a rural food-animal practice as a career without the
24 exposure to food-animal medicine early in veterinary
25 curriculum as well support from food-animal veterinarians
1 in the way of encouragement and practical experience.
2 In "Physical Diagnosis" class in the
3 first-year curriculum I was exposed to the basics of
4 medical examination in a variety of species. It's opened
5 my eyes to a new possible career path in which I could
6 choose. I became curious about bovine medicine and was
7 lucky enough to be enrolled in a second-year class "Large
8 Animal Clinical Skills."
9 This class very beneficial to me, expanding
10 on the skills taught in the physical diagnosis class and
11 strengthening my interest in pursuing bovine medicine as a
12 career. Having a broad veterinary curriculum, I have been
13 able to easily step out of my career path comfort zone
14 without neglecting other possible career interests.
15 My growing academic interest in food-animal
16 medicine has been reinforced by practical experience
17 gained at the hand of a rural mixed-animal veterinarian
18 near my home in Middle Tennessee. Recognizing the
19 increased need for student recruitment in food-animal
20 practice, she is better able to relate to me the current
21 issues in entering rural food-animal practice. Her
22 mentorship, as well as the mentorship of the large-animal
23 faculty here at UT, has been invaluable in maintaining my
24 interest and building my confidence in entering
25 food-animal practice.
1 In the transition of my career focus, I have
2 been quite lucky. The opportunities available to me are
3 not available to all students who wish to have them. For
4 one, the "Large Animal Clinical Skills" class I took was
5 limited to 12 second-year students enrolled by a lottery
6 system. Without this class I would be much less confident
7 in my ability to practice medicine on large animals. I
8 believe this limiting of opportunity is counterproductive
9 to fostering interest in large-animal practice.
10 Secondly, the Academy of Rural Veterinarians
11 has provided me and many other students with a scholarship
12 to help offset the costs, such as travel, room and board,
13 associated with externships. I believe these scholarships
14 are very effective in exposing students to rural farm and
15 farm-animal practices because they allow the student for
16 freedom in choosing an externship based on career
17 interests rather than economic feasibility.
18 The Academy of Rural Veterinarians has an
19 online database of large-animal practitioners who wish to
20 serve as mentors, but in Tennessee there's only one
21 practitioner listed in the database.
22 Finally, I was also very fortunate to find a
23 private practitioner that sought to encourage my interest
24 in food-animal practice and allowed me to actively
25 participate in many procedures despite my lack of
1 experience. These factors have been critical to my
2 transition, but in my opinion are not as available to
3 veterinary students as they should be.
4 My major concern with my decision to pursue
5 rural food-animal practice is that being in a non-tracking
6 curriculum I may be less prepared upon graduation than
7 someone in a tracking program. Or, because of my lack of
8 agricultural background, less prepared than other
9 graduates of non-tracking programs to enter food-animal
11 So the same broad curriculum to which I owe
12 my ability to change career paths I fear may not include
13 enough emphasis on food-animal medicine to prepare a
14 student like me, with little large-animal experience, fo
15 be an effective food-animal veterinarian. I do not know
16 the solution to that double-edged sword, just as I do not
17 know the solution to the declining interest in rural
18 food-animal practice.
19 I'm very grateful there is a panel to
20 investigate this problem and to have been given the
21 opportunity to speak before it.
22 MR. DiPIETRO: Thank you. Questions?
23 MR. BLACKWELL: Where are you going on?
24 MR. FIDLER: Cornell University.
25 MR. BLACKWELL: I appreciate that one of
1 the points that you're trying to stress that animal
2 science maybe isn't equal to large-animal experience as
3 some people think. It really depends on what's included
4 in that. Thank you very much.
5 MR. DiPIETRO: Other questions?
6 (WHEREUPON, no responses.)
7 MR. DiPIETRO: Thank you. Can we hear from
8 Mr. Michael Townes? You're represented by Mr. Bone?
9 MR. TOWNES: I am, I am.
10 MR. DiPIETRO: I remember you?
11 MR. TOWNES: Alright! I don't know if
12 that's good or bad.
13 MR. DiPIETRO: No, it's very good. This
14 young man outshined me in front of the House/Senate
15 Committee, that's a good representative here.
16 MR. TOWNES: Well I don't know about that.
17 MICHAEL TOWNES:
18 Michael Townes, Hartsville, Tennessee. I
19 grew up on a small farm there in the Kato Community, very
20 small place, lot of people probably hadn't never heard of
21 us. We had beef cattle, both my parents worked off the
22 farm, my mother's a nurse, my dad's a electrician. They
23 pushed us to go to school, go to college. My older
24 brother is a ag teacher there in Hartsville now, my
25 younger brother works for a feedstore in Scottsville,
1 Kentucky. Uh, I meant to write a few things down, I've
2 just been busy in clinics.
3 I think that basically there's three
4 components to this, the large-animal problem; the school,
5 the state, and most of all money. First of all, the
6 school. I just asked Dr. Brace how many students were
7 out-of-state, 27% are out-of-state students. If I was
8 going to take a job somewhere and I was going to go into
9 large-animal medicine, and I know I'm not going to get
10 paid much money anyway, I'm probably not going to do it
11 somewhere I'm not from.
12 Why are there not more out-of-state
13 students? Because there's not enough money. The
14 out-of-state students pay three times the tuition I pay.
15 Divide that three times. It's just math. They don't get
16 enough money from the state to run the school, so they
17 have to take in more out-of-state students, more
18 out-of-state students that go out of state when they get
19 done and don't stay in Tennessee. Now, there is a few,
20 there's some in my class that'll stay in the state that
21 are out-of-state.
22 By and large, people that want to be rural
23 veterinarians are going to go to where they're from, or at
24 least close to it. Why? Because they want to be there or
25 they want to work with a certain kind of animals. You
1 have a lot of people that move to areas that have lots of
2 dairy so they can work with dairies, or swine to work with
3 swine. But if you're wanting large-animal veterinarians
4 in Tennessee, first of all I think we need to take more
5 in-state students. To do that, I think we need to have
6 more money from the state.
7 Second of all, on the state-owned school.
8 The young lady is right, there's not enough training in
9 large-animal medicine. I've been through all of it nearly
10 now, it's put on the back burner in a lot of places. And
11 a lot of that boils down to money. We don't have any land
12 to put a herd of horses or a group of pigs. We have a few
13 cows, they buy 'em and they sell 'em when we get through
14 working on 'em in the electives.
15 If we had possibly more inter-workings
16 between the experiment station and the vet school,
17 animal-science department and extension service, maybe we
18 could have more experience in the large-animal part.
19 There's lots of people that have lots of experience in
20 large-animal stuff that aren't necessarily veterinarians.
21 So we don't have enough money to have a big
22 plot of land somewhere where we can keep all our horses
23 that we can have for our wetlabs. Now, we've got a
24 building that we can put twenty-five dogs in. It's a lot
25 cheaper to work on small animals. It's a lot cheaper to
1 have a wetlab where you do bronchialgiola lavage that we
2 did in the third-year classroom.
3 A third-year class, respiratory class, when
4 I asked if we're going to do anything like that in horses,
5 "No, we don't have any horses to do that on." With the
6 i-quid protocols it's hard to do research, it's hard to be
7 able to -- it's hard to get experience.
8 Another problem -- this is all my personal
9 opinion, so take it or leave it -- another problem I see
10 is that the University is pretty much all referral. We
11 have the ambulatory service that goes out and does field
12 service work for local farmers to get people experience in
13 veterinary medicine and large-animal medicine, both the
14 equine and food-animal. We get a month of that. That's
15 fantastic. Great teachers that go out of their way to
16 allow you to do what you need to do to be able to practice
17 ambulatory, food-animal and equine medicine.
18 In the hospital we're more referral. At
19 times.... we get the hardest-of-the-hard cases here, and,
20 you know, we're a referral center and people refer stuff
21 in. And, you know, that's great. You learn. And I'm not
22 saying that we should dumb it down at all, I don't think
23 that we should cut our standards of who we let in at all.
24 But, we get the hardest-of-the-hard cases, things are
25 unrealistic at times. People get driven out of
1 large-animal medicine because we see some of the
2 hardest-of-the-hard stuff.
3 There's a tendency not to allow students to
4 do things. I was told no more times than I can remember.
5 I asked to do every single procedure we did, and some of
6 it I knew I wasn't going to get to do. When I asked Dr.
7 Marioni, we were doing a hemolagic laminectomy on a dog, I
8 knew she wasn't going to allow me to cut that bone right
9 away from the spine. I kinda did that as a joke --
11 MR. DiPIETRO: What'd she say, Mike?
12 MR. TOWNES: She said no.
14 MR. TOWNES: But these students, a lot of
15 'em are young, not that I'm an old man but a little older
16 than a lot of 'em, and they will sit back and not --
17 they're not go for it. I've got nine months left, I'm
18 going to learn as much as I can in nine months, because
19 when I get out I'm working on somebody else's stuff, my
20 mistakes will be on their stuff. So I think there needs
21 to be more of a push for the students to do more.
22 And I know that we deal with a lot of
23 high-dollar animals, and I know there's a liability
24 issues. But still, students need to be more involved.
25 Sometimes you're behind a clinician, a resident and an
1 intern, and there's four students and you're waiting in
2 line to do one procedure. Any questions, go ahead.
3 MR. DiPIETRO: I just wondered if there's
4 any questions from the panel.
5 MR. BONE: I'm proud that you're coming back
6 to my area to practice. And the other thing I wanted to
7 ask you, I want to ask you for your vote.
9 MR. BONE: Appreciate you.
10 MR. TOWNES: I appreciate that. One more
11 thing I want to say. The money part of it, I know that
12 the state is strapped. I understand that. Veterinary
13 students when they get out of school are strapped. I
14 don't even want to talk about my debt.
15 But, you know, it all boils down to money.
16 And if we can get more this way towards the school maybe
17 we could have a few more things directed towards the
18 large-animal. If we could get some money towards debt
19 repayment maybe we could get more people in large-animals.
20 If we could keep more of our students in the state, which
21 I think would be letting more in-state in, but that
22 doesn't necessarily mean that's true. Anyways, that's my
24 MR. DiPIETRO: Thank you very much. We've
25 now come to the open part of the session and the Panel
1 will entertain anyone in the audience who comes forward.
2 I would ask you to limit your remarks to a minute or two
3 so we can give everybody a chance. Tell us who you are,
4 your name, and what town or city you're from. Come on
6 PAUL FUGATE:
7 My name is Paul Fugate, I'm from near
8 Tazewell, Tennessee, in the area that Mr. Brooks was
9 talking about Walter State serving. I'm a beef producer.
10 And that's more than just a title, that's an occupation,
11 that's a career. It's how I feed my children.
12 I appreciate the Panel's interest, I
13 appreciate you being here to accept any comments that
14 people like me may have. I hope you'll forgive the way
15 that I've structured this, I've been taking notes
16 furiously. And I'm going to do kind of a shotgun approach
17 because it's been kind of a shotgun set of testimony.
18 This does come down to a point Mr. Houston
19 from the Coop said, a matter of economics. That's how,
20 like I said, that's how I feed my family. I bought cattle
21 last Saturday out of Newport, Tennessee. They averaged
22 618 pounds at $1.05. That's roughly $630, give or take.
23 If one of those animals gets sick I wouldn't
24 expect an 8-year trained veterinarian to come to my farm
25 to treat that animal for anything less than $150, not
1 counting pharmaceuticals or other supplies used. I can't
2 afford that. The most I can make on that animal, in the
3 past twelve months, is going to be $200. And that's
4 doing, as my grandfather said, pretty damn well. I can
5 better suffer the loss of an animal than I can the loss of
6 an animal and a professional's bill.
7 We're turning somewhere near 3,000 head a
8 year through a farm that's been in our family for over 200
9 years. It comes down to just what you can pencil with
10 math. And like Mr. Brooks said again, people in our area
11 are not the best in math and science.
12 I was fortunate to attend the University of
13 Tennessee in the Agricultural Engineering Department right
14 across the road here, I was an A.E. McClanahan scholar.
15 I've been a fortunate man. But I still went back to
16 farming, because I love what I do. I love the animals,
17 even though I'll eat 'em tomorrow if I get the chance.
19 We were in the pork industry. We had a
20 600-sow/mare operation that we began in 1980 that we
21 closed out in approximatley 1999. Why? Not because we
22 hated pigs, even though we did, and everybody knows God
23 hated pigs. Especially the Jews, they know that. God put
24 it in the Bible, "Don't eat pork."
25 But not only hogs, put 1,000 hogs in, it
1 wasn't a lack of vet care -- even though we sent several
2 hogs down here to the vet school to have tested to find
3 out the cause of death. No help. Why? Because there was
4 not sufficient research at the University of Tennessee
5 College of Veterinary Medicine to come up with a accurate
6 cause of death that's treatable in an economical manner.
7 I don't hold the U.T. College of Veterinary
8 Medicine responsible for that. Because, bad things
9 happen. That's just the way it goes in production of
10 livestock. I actually hold the College of Veterinary
11 Medicine very near and dear to my heart.
12 While I going to school down here I got kind
13 of lonely, so I brought my horse from home to ride in the
14 area of North Knoxville, ride it by the side of the road
15 that you wouldn't dare get on a horse on today. She cut
16 her leg on a culvert, right below the whetlock and it was
17 bleeding, bleeding pretty bad. I didn't have any sedative
18 with me, so, I couldn't very well stitch her up myself.
19 I brought her over here in a trailer.
20 Whoever was on call that night was kind enough to take
21 care of my horse. I'd bought her when I was 12. She died
22 16 months ago, she was nearly as old as I am. But I've
23 got a lot of respect for the care that you all provide,
24 for the knowledge that you have.
25 I know the problem of the availability of
1 large-animal vets is serious to some. We spend about over
2 $50,000 a year in pharmaceuticals. Pfizer, Alonco,
3 Shearing Plow in Fort Dodge, all have veterinarians on
4 staff. Those veterinarians are not working for free, and
5 I'm sure they're some of the best and brightest. For all
6 I know, some of 'em graduated from the University of
7 Tennessee. I hope they did.
8 Mr. Townes said in your clinical work down
9 here you get the hardest-of-the-hard cases. I think
10 that's great, because I can cure the small stuff. I get
11 excellent consulting work by people who have the highest
12 interest in giving me the most up-to-date knowledge,
13 because they're the ones I'm paying. They stay as
14 up-to-date in the beef industry as anyone possibly can,
15 because that's what's feeding their family.
16 I think that, again like Mr. Townes said,
17 our state's in a strapped-for-cash kind of scenario. We
18 can't -- I don't think it's either good fiscal judgment or
19 good social judgment to start paying to put people in a
20 place where they cannot support themselves in a capitalist
21 economy. There are reasons that that is done in Kansas,
22 there are reasons that is done in human medicine.
23 I just as casually, this is totally
24 anecdotal, but I think I figured it out: People will pay
25 more on recreation or pets than they will on anything
1 else, except possibly their children. And that's fine,
2 that's their disposable income. And I can certainly
3 relate to having pets, I've buried a lot of em, I really
4 like 'em. But it happens. Bad stuff happens.
5 If we don't have enough of a demand to fill
6 a perceived, or real, hole in large-animal vet, then I
7 don't think that there's any point in us putting a
8 veterinarian out there saying, "Make your living as a
9 large-animal vet, but nobody is going to pay you." That
10 does not make sense to me.
11 I have got a very sympathetic attitude to
12 veterinary students with a debt load. I've got an older
13 brother that's a lawyer, I've got a younger brother
14 finishing up his residency over in Greenville, North
15 Carolina. They both borrowed money from the farm, and I
16 was fortunate enough to come back and join the farm to
17 take on that debt.
19 I personally owe nearly a half million
20 dollars. Because I'm not inheriting my farm, I'm buying
21 my farm. I don't expect the state to give me any more of
22 a handout or a leg up, depending on your perspective, than
23 I expect the state to give somebody that's opening a gas
24 station a handout or a leg up. Capitalism starts with a
25 C, so does cutthroat.
1 MR. DiPIETRO: I want to interrupt you for
2 just a moment --
3 MR. FUGATE: Sure. I know I've gone over,
4 I'll entertain your questions.
5 MR. DiPIETRO: I was just going to ask you
6 to close in about a minute or so so we can ask some
7 questions. Do you have anything else to tell us?
8 MR. FUGATE: Oh shoot....
9 MR. DiPIETRO: By the way, I see you've won
10 the Young Farmer of the Year award?
11 MR. FUGATE: Well, there weren't many
14 MR. FUGATE: I do have the privilege of
15 knowing Dr. Daugherty's son, and I talked to him some on
16 the way down here. So, his impression was that he got a
17 good veterinary education. His further impression was
18 that, based on the criteria that I gave, that I can handle
19 -- based on the size of my operation, granted -- I can
20 handle pharmacological-reference problems within the
21 economic parameters that exist, for me.
22 I have access, I believe, to the most
23 up-to-date solutions to the problems that affect the
24 majority of my lifestyle. It's surgical care, things that
25 require a hands-on approach that I'm not equipped to deal
2 And I will close my comments by saying that
3 I do disagree with Dr. Wilson in that I think the farmer
4 is the first line of defense in agri-terrorism, because
5 we're out there every day, seeing our animals every day,
6 and we're responsible for the care that they do or don't
8 MR. DiPIETRO: Thank you. Any questions?
9 MR. BLACKWELL: Mr. Fugate, really
10 appreciate you showing up here and I enjoyed hearing your
11 comments. And let me just express my sorrow at the loss
12 of your horse. I do know what companions are about, and
13 you mentioned it, it was obviously important to you.
14 I also appreciate you sharing your reality
15 as a producer. That is one of the things that we want to
16 try to understand, is what your reality is. And
17 especially in the context of other realities.
18 I grew up in Oklahoma, my dad was a
19 veterinarian, worked largely on cattle. Small dogs and
20 cats were very secondary. And my first practice was in
21 Oklahoma. I got to meet a lot of producers and I
22 understand what you mean by knowing your animals. You
23 live with them every day, and you see them every day.
24 But as a veterinarian, I have a question
25 that I would appreciate you would respond to, and that is,
1 most of us here haven't even heard of winnow pests, or
2 swamp fever, or Africa swine fever, or some of these
3 foreign diseases that we're really worried about coming to
4 the U.S. I think Canada just found its eighth case of
6 And one of the things that I am personally
7 am a bit concerned about is how do we capture that
8 knowledge that producers have, like yourself, but not ask
9 more of you than you're able to deliver. You know, what
10 assurances, what system can we build, so that if something
11 fell out of the sky on your place and effected an animal,
12 that animal wouldn't be shipped somewhere else to spread
13 the problem across the state, because you didn't happen to
14 have training in all those diseases that can happen.
15 That is a question that continues to
16 challenge us. And you don't have to respond to that, but
17 if you do have a response I would like to hear about that.
18 MR. FUGATE: Well I've been following with
19 great interest the old metamorphosis of the animal ID
20 issues. I took a definite financial blow with a Christmas
21 cow just like every other beef producer in the U.S. did.
22 And not to mention the people that own beef contracts,
23 that was a big part of the billions of dollars lost.
24 This issue of diseased cattle, and the more
25 I've learned the less worried I am about this. I have a
1 greater chance of getting struck by lightning inside this
2 room than suffering any CBJD illness. However,
3 foot-and-mouth does scare me. I realize that we have a
4 very great risk of bio-terrorism.
5 However, there are also things that I
6 believe to be true but do not know to be true. An animal
7 that exhibits non-normal behaviors, I am not going to put
8 on a load that goes to Kansas where I retain ownership
9 through slaughter. If an animal is exhibiting
10 characteristics that I recognize and treat, and the animal
11 doesn't recover, the animal is probably going to die. If
12 an animal exhibits symptoms that I have never seen, I'm
13 going to consult.
14 But I think that this is an area that, with
15 respect to the law, that is perpetuated and promulgated by
16 our state government and federal government, that we have
17 to be aware of. The law, in my opinion, is not a good
18 means, necessarily, of preventing malfeasance, it's a very
19 good means of punishing malfeasance.
20 It is against the law to commit crimes, but
21 that does not stop you from the action. I think it falls
22 upon the individual producer -- as a food producer, not
23 necessarily a beef producer or a swine producer -- to put
24 the best product that they can into the food chain.
25 Failing that, there are methods outside of legal action
1 that will occur.
2 Even without individual animal ID, feedlots
3 know where their product comes from. They can find it
4 out. Slaughter facilities write checks to swine
5 producers, they know where their product comes from. Once
6 they get to a harvest facility they are identified.
7 MR. DiPIETRO: We really appreciate your
8 comments but we need to move on.
9 MR. FUGATE: I'm sure. Thank you.
10 MR. DiPIETRO: Anybody else in the audience
11 want to make a comment?
12 RICHARD HEITMANN:
13 Alright. I want to give my experience and
14 say something I think may be simplified by Laurel and
15 Andrew, and then I want to answer Dr. Blackwell's
17 I grew up on horses, I had so many horses.
18 When all my friends were out playing tennis I was cleaning
19 stalls, hunting, three-day events, showing, what have you.
20 And my summers were spent working for a primarily
21 large-animal veterinarian who had almost 50% equine
22 practice, I'd say a 25% food-animal, mostly dairy and beef
23 cattle, and some pork, and then did small-animal on the
25 When I went to vet school, my intent was to
1 become an equine private practitioner. I had absolutely
2 the sole intent in my mind, nothing would deviate my
3 thoughts from that. I went to vet school in Georgia, and
4 I had good a large-animal experience there but I was
5 seduced by the science of small-animal. At that time, I
6 graduated in 1973, large-animal was not nearly as advanced
7 as it is now. I will say small-animal is still far more
8 advanced and a lot of that has to do with the economics of
10 So, when I got out I decided to pursue a
11 small-animal internship, I did that, ended up in a large
12 small practice in the Washington D.C. area. This is 1974,
13 and probably adjusted to today's dollars I started at over
14 $100,000 a year. But, there were no emergency clinics.
15 And I was on call every other night, and virtually every
16 night I was over the practice. And days I worked probably
17 12-hour days.
18 After a year I decided that if this was my
19 life I was no longer going to be a veterinarian. And I
20 applied for a small residency and went to the University
21 of California at Davis. Spent two years in the residency
22 and I said, You know, this has been great, I cannot stand
23 academia, and I swore I would never go back to an academic
24 institute again.
25 So I went down and I worked full-time in an
1 emergency practice in San Diego, small-animal, and did a
2 lot of relief work. And after two years of doing that I
3 decided, you know, I preferred having my nights to myself
4 and not working all night, and decided to buy a
5 small-animal practice. In the process, someone from
6 Tennessee -- I had called to consult on case -- said Hey,
7 we're looking for a small-animal internist here. And I
8 thought well I'll go look.
9 And I remember a nine-hour drive to
10 Tennessee, and I thought this is the dumbest thing I've
11 ever done, I don't want to end up in academia, and I wish
12 I hadn't agreed to interview. So I loved Tennessee and I
13 thought, "God, they're a great bunch of guys, it's a
14 wonderful school, I hope they offer me the job."
15 So I came here, and after about three years
16 I decided, you know, I really don't want to do internal
17 medicine anymore and I switched over to clinical
18 pathology. So for the last 23-something years I'm a
19 veterinarian and I don't touch animals, much to my
20 mother's dismay.
21 And I guess the comment I would make is,
22 what you put into the pipeline in no way guarantees what's
23 gonna come out. And there's a lot of different reasons
24 for that, I think some of these people have addressed some
25 of those. But one thing about veterinary medicine, I
1 guess the blessing is there are literally a hundred
2 different careers once you have the DVM that you can
3 pursue. So, if you decide for any number of reasons the
4 one you're doing is not most suitable, it's not very
5 difficult to change.
6 Now, the other thing that I want to address,
7 Dean Blackwell layed this one open for me. And I have
8 actively campaigned to have the State of Tennessee build a
9 statewide diagnostic laboratory system. The Department of
10 Agriculture is behind this, the state veterinarian is
11 behind this.
12 And I honestly think that these farmers can
13 be the front line in bio-terrorism as long as you have a
14 statewide diagnostic laboratory system that provides them
15 with free services. So when animals die, they will come
16 to regional centers where veterinarians trained to
17 evaluate necropsy exams, look for tissues, will look at
18 them and they'll pick up on these diseases. So while it
19 won't be the veterinarian out in the field that would
20 necessarily get it, it would be one of these regional
22 MR. DiPIETRO: Thank you. Anybody else from
23 the audience? Come on down, sir.
24 HUGH McCAMPBELL:
25 My name is Hugh McCampbell, I practice in
1 Sweetwater, Tennessee. I have a storeroom and a truck, I
2 wouldn't swap jobs with anybody. I started out at 6:30
3 the other morning with Brian back there and went through
4 the day. I've heard a lot of things that people have said
5 here and I've written down a few notes.
6 I have been in practice -- I was on the
7 faculty here for thirteen years as the head Extension
8 veterinarian, had a $16 million dollar budget cut. Told
9 'em I'd work for less than that but they still decided to
10 discontinue the department, so....
11 Anyway, we're going to get hungry one of
12 these days. And if the large-animal veterinarian isn't
13 preserved we're not going to have the highest quality food
14 source in the world. People talk about large-animal
15 veterinarians not making as much money as small-animal
16 veterinarians, I'm netting more than I did on the faculty
17 up here at U.T. Maybe they weren't paying me very much.
18 But anyway. I don't have a lot of overhead.
19 And people are so thankful that I'll come
20 look at their cow or their horse. And people ask me,
21 "When do you open ever day?" I say, "Well, if I don't
22 have an earlier call I open when the phone rings."
23 On admitting more of these kids that might
24 want to come into large-animal medicine, you look at the
25 grades in physics and math and so forth, once somebody
1 gets so good in biochemistry or math or physics or
2 something, they don't need to be a whole lot better than
3 that to get through veterinary school. A lot of these
4 farm boys can add and subtract, do all that organic
5 chemistry stuff easily, as much as you need to get through
6 veterinary school.
7 And I would encourage you to admit more
8 people with farm backgrounds. As it's been said, they're
9 not always guaranteed they'll be able to go back but
10 there's a lot more chance for a farm boy to go back to
11 farming than it is for a city boy to go to the farm.
12 Any of you students who want to come ride
13 with me, I'd appreciate your help and you'll see what the
14 real world's like.
15 MR. DiPIETRO: What time are you starting in
16 the morning?
17 DR. McCAMPBELL: When the phone rings.
19 DR. McCAMPBELL: Write that down.
20 MR. DiPIETRO: I think she has.
21 DR. McCCAMPBELL: There are more hobby farms
22 now. And I see more of that with the yankees coming down
23 from Pennsylvania and New York and so forth, and they see
24 this territory having gone back and forth through here to
25 Florida on vacation all their life and they want to live
1 here, 'cause the weather's not so bad, pretty country,
2 kinda looks like home, and it doesn't cost as much to live
4 But, this beef producer over here, my living
5 is made helping people make a living. I can't charge too
6 much on an agricultural place but it's got to be cost
7 effective for me to come out there. So I always consider
8 that whenever I have a fee for large-animal production
9 work, which I do a whole lot of.
10 Let's see.... these hobby farmers want to
11 sell cattle or want to sell horses or whatever, mainly
12 cattle, just like anybody else does. And so, it's just
13 not pets you're treating there lots of times.
14 Let's see.... one thing about lay people
15 doing veterinary work, veterinarians have to pass a
16 licensing exam and have to have continuing education every
17 year to maintain their license. And so there's
18 accountability. If I mess up on health certificates I can
19 get my license pulled, or something like that, so the
20 veterinarians have a standard they have to hold to whereas
21 lay people going through the country do not have that. So
22 the care of animals will diminish, the quality of care
23 will diminish if anything's let go on my license of a
25 Another thing about these veterinarians for
1 the coop, those guys don't drive a truck where they've got
2 anecdotes (sic) and so forth like that for reactions, and
3 the client/patient relationship, client/veterinary
4 relation, requires you be available for follow-up
5 treatment. And you've got to have a truckful of stuff to
6 get a lot of these things turned around if you have a
7 reaction or something happens to blow up.
8 So, the private practitioner, there's no
9 substitute for the private veterinarian. And consulting
10 veterinarians can only go so far in the territory they can
11 cover in the individual animal treatment.
12 Let's see.... that's about all I've got
13 written down. I feel kinda like a mule in the Kentucky
14 Derby coming up here to talk, but I appreciate it.
15 MR. DiPIETRO: You're very welcome, sir.
17 (WHEREUPON, no responses.)
18 MR. DiPIETRO: Thank you for sharing.
19 MR. McCAMPBELL: You bet.
20 MR. DiPIETRO: Anybody else from the
22 BILL HOWELL:
23 I'm Bill Howell, a dairy farmer from
24 Morristown, Tennessee. And one thing I'd like to say, I'm
25 very fortunate to have a vet available, and I certainly
1 appreciate him and know how hard they work. Because I
2 remember having a cow to prolapse her uterus at 2 o'clock
3 in the morning and thinking who would be crazy enough to a
4 have job to go come out and put one of those back in.
5 Until I realized I was laying beside the guy helping push
6 it in. So he wasn't as crazy as I thought he was.
8 I think everything've been addressed here
9 except for one or two points. You mentioned about the
10 lady veterinarians, (Indicating Ms. Clark.) I have no
11 problem with those. If they know what's wrong with the
12 cow, they can treat the cow. And a sometimes a small hand
13 is an advantage, sometimes a large hand or a long reach.
14 Like my veterinarian has a long reach, V.A., he goes plumb
15 through, sticks the needle out the other side. That's
16 just an advantage sometimes.
17 And I had one young vet that I was really
18 hoping would help out the vet that I use. He was raised
19 on the farm, big stout boy, had a 1,500-pound cow down, I
20 forget now what she was down with. Said we needed to move
21 her. I had a bad back and I thought Well this isn't gonna
22 happen. He grabs hold of her tail, moves her around. And
23 that's where it would be an advantage.
24 But he went to a small-animal practice. And
25 I remember talking to him and asked him why, and it was
1 money. And when he explained what he was getting and
2 weekends off and 8-hour days, it's easy to see why he did
3 that. And even with the farm background. And later I
4 took my dog to his practice, it got stepped on, and I
5 could tell talking to him that he missed the large-animal
6 practice. Because he wanted to know about that last cow
7 he treated, how did she doing, what happened and
8 everything. But it was just the money, and I understand
10 But a vet is real important to a dairy
11 farmer. And I was just thinking, too, the guys that I
12 really depend on is the guy that hauls my milk and the vet
13 that comes every month to treat my cows. And with a dairy
14 you're a little more interested in prevention than you are
15 in treating, and I see him on a regular basis. I
16 certainly appreciate the vet, but it seems like everybody
17 that's talking, it boils down to the economics of it.
18 MR. BLACKWELL: Sure.
19 MR. HOWELL: And when I call the vet I have
20 to look at the cow and say if I spend $300 to treat her
21 and I can't get that money back I'd be better off just
22 using a bullet and get it over with quickly. That's all I
23 have to say.
24 MR. DiPIETRO: Thank you very much. Any
1 MR. HOLLAND: Does your veterinarian work
2 with you? You just used the example of you have to make a
3 decision as to euthanize the animal or try vet care, would
4 your veterinarian work with you to make those decisions
5 while that cow is in production so you can call it up on a
6 computer and say cow number 13, if she has a problem it's
7 going to cost me money and I don't need to put anymore
8 money into her, so when she finishes her lactation she's
9 gone, or if she's lame then she's gone, so you already
10 have those decisions beforehand?
11 MR. HOWELL: Yes. Too, I have a herd sheet
12 on each cow and the last herd check just.... well, they're
13 at Mascot now, livestock sale. And I looked on the herd
14 sheet on the back and he'd written "cull", because we'd
15 discussed what to do with it. And he helps me.
16 MR. HOLLAND: That's adding value to your
17 operation, that's the kind of responses you need?
18 MR. HOWELL: Yes.
19 MR. HOLLAND: I grew up in Virginia, and I
20 went back to Michigan because I was trained to work with
21 dairy cows. I couldn't work with the kind of dairy
22 farmers I had been trained to work with in Virginia, so, I
23 had to make a move like some others are talking about.
24 MR. HOWELL: A lot of the medicine that I
25 buy from my vet I could get cheaper elsewhere, and a lot
1 of times I've mention it to her when I'm at the office
2 that I could get it through the coop or less through a
3 mailorder catalogue, but 2 o'clock in the morning they
4 don't come out.
5 MR. HOLLAND: Thank you.
6 MR. HOLLAND: But, it's getting to the
7 point, I've got a survey at home laying on the table, it's
8 from a telephone business, that you order medicine that
9 now I have to get from the vet. So, I am beginning to get
10 in that predicament of how much can I afford to keep
11 buying that medicine from the vet if I can get it online a
12 whole lot cheaper. But that's still back to me.
13 MR. DiPIETRO: Thank you very much. Anybody
14 else? Yes, sir.
15 DAVID BRYANT:
16 My name is David Bryant and I'm a fifth-
17 generation cow/calf-producer here in Tennessee, but I grew
18 up in Kansas. I am similar educated to Dean Blackwell, I
19 went to Kansas State University Veterinary School like
21 I agree with a lot of statements that Mr.
22 Townes said and the gentleman with 3,000 head a year. And
23 if you all haven't seen this survey, not that it's
24 scientific, but this is Beef's magazine for this month.
25 And I know from many veterinarians not many cows actually
1 ask this question, but, Where's my vet? But they asked
2 both veterinarians and producers their opinions on many of
3 these issues. Granted this is a nationwide poll, but it
4 does give very good insight, including one of our own
5 veterinarians out of Athens, Tennessee what his opinion is
6 and he's quoted. It has a large section, a Dr. John
7 Offit, and he's been practicing in Athens for 35 years.
8 So, and I'm sure it'd be available online as well.
9 Anyway, just a couple of points that I had
10 written down during the conversations of everyone. I
11 agree 100% about that you need to be passionate about any
12 work, whether that's animal work or working with computers
13 or anything. So, this article points out, like Dr.
14 Daugherty, getting kids early on in classrooms, the 4-H,
15 anything like that is extremely important.
16 Because no amount of money will, you know,
17 force someone to do a job. There will be a point,
18 there'll be a breaking point to where they'll be like This
19 is not worth it. So whether it's state-supplemented or
20 not, nobody is going to do it forever for some amount of
22 As far as the accountability for producers
23 like what Dean Blackwell has spoken about, in 1997 AFS did
24 a cow/calf survey that was published along with many other
25 surveys for the equine and this and that. Anyway, as
1 you're well aware, the Southeast United States is
2 deficient in its health of cattle or calves that are sent
3 to feedlot states, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. And
4 through efforts of the Tennessee Cattlemen's Association
5 and others, you know, the Farm Bureau and this and that,
6 that overall health picture has increased.
7 Now, I've been in contact with APHIS to see
8 when they will do another survey, and they've not made a
9 decision yet in D.C. whether it will be a feedlot survey
10 or a cow/calf survey, to say well this is how many calves
11 are being vaccinated for these things, or this is how many
12 DA surgeries are being done, this and that.
13 But group programs like Merial CureHealth,
14 Pfizer, Select-Vac, a veterinarian is involved but it
15 forces accountability for people like me, this other
16 gentleman, or any cow/calf producer that wants to be
17 involved. And then once animal ID becomes involved and
18 the USDA makes up their mind, I mean, it will either put
19 people out of business that don't need to be in the cow
20 business in the first place, because it will force them to
21 be accountable for what they produce. Or, you know, it
22 will make people shine, like myself who want to be in this
23 business and who my ancestors have been in this business a
24 long time.
25 And then like other folks have been saying,
1 feedlots know where the cattle are coming from, and they
2 will say Okay, we want to buy those guys' cattle again.
3 And those veterinarians that participate in those
4 programs, you know, they will have benefits, the producers
5 will have benefits. So everybody will be working together
6 even more and more. And I don't know if that will be
7 through a corporate program or something, but I think that
8 will be a huge benefit.
9 And more and more, not only in this state
10 but other states, it's coming. And for me, I wish it had
11 been here two or three years ago.
12 So, that's all I have. And too, I
13 appreciate the Panel's efforts.
14 MR. DiPIETRO: Very welcome, sir. Any
16 MR. BLACKWELL: I have one question for
17 clarification. The APHIS survey that you referenced, I
18 believe you said that it showed an improvement in
19 something, and I missed that.
20 MR. BRYANT: Well, it showed that in 1997
21 that the Southeast United States was the most efficient
22 region of anywhere in the U.S. in cow/calf health. And
23 I'm just speculating, and this surely has to be true with
24 what the Coop guy said and this and that, and with BQA
25 certification, that has increased somewhat. But I don't
1 know to what degree that has. I don't know if it's now
2 equal to the Midwest or the Northeast.
3 MR. BLACKWELL: Thank you.
4 MR. DiPIETRO: Come on down.
5 JOHN OFFIT:
6 Well, I'm the infamous Dr. Hoffman that was
7 quoted in Beef Magazine. I'm from Athens, Tennessee. I
8 am not a very good speaker but I have two quick comments.
9 The first comment I'd like to make, and this
10 concerns agriculture as a whole. You know, we have our
11 dairy farmers out there trying to exist on 97 cents a
12 gallon of milk and it's $4.00 a gallon over at the store.
13 What's wrong with that picture? Something's bad wrong
14 with that picture.
15 And then I have one other comment to rebut
16 Mr. Fugate. He's getting his information, and some of his
17 information may be good, but that information comes from
18 somebody that's got an agenda to sell drugs. And they
19 expect to cure all of his problems with drugs and not with
20 management a lot of times.
21 We see that everyday. We have drug
22 companies that come around our farms, they approach our
23 producers and offer all kinds of deals on medication that
24 we have no oversight on. Now, you say Okay I'm well able,
25 this producer is well able to handle this.
1 In the American hospital, human hospital
2 situations, at this time over 300,000 people a year are
3 killed by professional doctors and nurses treating those
4 people in hospitals. How many animals suffer and die from
5 inhumane care because people don't know what they're doing
6 with this medication that they can, quote, legally
7 possess. It needs to stop.
8 MR. DiPIETRO: Thank you. Any questions?
9 (WHEREUPON, no responses.)
10 MR. DiPIETRO: Congratulations on being in
11 Beef Magazine.
12 DR. HOFFMAN: Thank you.
13 MR. DiPIETRO: Anybody else? It's going on
14 almost two and-a-half hours here but we'll.... going once
15 -- there we go.
16 MARGIE CARTER:
17 My name is Margie Carter, I'm a large-animal
18 vet from Lincoln County. I felt like as a woman
19 veterinarian, large-animal veterinarian, I needed to speak
21 I have practiced for 17 years strictly
22 large-animal practice. I grew up on a farm, set my sights
23 on vet school, worked for several practitioners, all men.
24 And when I went into vet school I knew I wanted to do
25 large-animal practice, but I always had that fear would I
1 be accepted or could I do the work. I felt like with my
2 farm background I could do the work, but would I find a
4 And as far as these students in vet school
5 now, I'm living proof. I am accepted in my community, I
6 have 17 years, have put in prolapse years as I found a
7 different way than maybe some of the stronger guys to get
8 the job done. I've never had a job that I haven't been
9 able to do.
10 I think the large-animal practitioners need
11 to mentor more students. Maybe on a highschool level when
12 you're recruiting these students, maybe the education is
13 already there, but lean more to the science and the math
14 and help these students realize that that's a big part of
15 becoming a veterinarian in the veterinary school.
16 I grew up on a very small farm, we had five
17 children in my family. One is a veterinarian -- one other
18 girl is a veterinarian -- I'm a veterinarian, two of my
19 brothers went on to college. So, we didn't have a lot of
20 money and I worked my way through undergraduate and
21 veterinary school, so when I came out I had a tremendous
22 debt load.
23 I think where there's a will there's a way.
24 I, speaking personally, just on all the breaks I tried to
25 get as much experience as possible. I paid off my loans
1 in about ten years. Strictly large-animal practice, I was
2 able to overcome that debt load. I just think more
3 practitioners need to be mentors, to let students know
4 that it can be done. And maybe that'll get more students
5 into large-animal practice.
6 MR. DiPIETRO: Thanks very much. Any
8 MR. BLACKWELL: Dr. Carter, thank you so
9 much for coming forward and sharing your story. You've
10 heard it mentioned that the students today have debt here
11 at U.T., it averages about $80,000 today and probably
12 going to be higher next year.
13 If you were to be graduating or you just
14 graduated this May with $80,000 of debt, do you think you
15 really could have walked the same path, with the will and
16 the --
17 DR. CARTER: I really don't remember what my
18 debt load was, but I really believe it was over $80,000.
19 MR. BLACKWELL: That's what you're saying,
21 DR. CARTER: I did have to, when I was
22 looking for a job and looking for a large-animal practice,
23 I did have to relocate. I wanted to stay in the Southeast
24 and I went to a dairy practice in Pennsylvania. Sometimes
25 you have to be patient for what the end result will be and
1 look elsewhere for a few years to find a practice that
2 will pay and will accept. And then the opportunity, of
3 course, opened for me to come back home.
4 MR. BLACKWELL: Thank you.
5 MR. DiPIETRO: Thank you very much. Anybody
7 BRENT CARTER:
8 Thank you for the opportunity to speak. I
9 am Brent Carter, I am the husband of the female
10 veterinarian that just spoke. And I know we talked about
11 the survey and how hard it was to get a veterinarian, and
12 if they polled me I would have to say it's pretty darn
13 hard to get one.
15 She's always working on the clients' animals
16 and I'm the last one to get taken care of, kind of like
17 the cobbler and his shoes.
18 But seriously, I went to Middle Tennessee
19 State University, graduated with an animal-science degree,
20 learned several skills, learned the basics, have an
21 appreciation for the basic things that you have to learn
22 and know to manage a cattle operation.
23 And after getting out of school in '80 we
24 had a 500-cow operation, and background about 1,000
25 yearlings, and put a lot of those skills to work. And
1 later on I married my wife, and I really do, I gained a
2 tremendous appreciation for veterinanrians and what all is
3 involved and how demanding that occupation is.
4 I guess I was at a meeting not too long ago
5 and a producer got up and talked about how hard it was to
6 get a veterinarian. And he said that he had not used a
7 veterinarian in three years, but his neighbors had a hard
8 time getting one and he assumed that he'd probably have a
9 hard time getting one, too.
10 To me, a veterinarian, and I just want to
11 emphasis this to you all, how important I think that a
12 veterinarian/farmer relationship is. And that we have got
13 to work on this problem together, it's not vying one
14 against the other. It's so important that we work on this
15 together and have input from both, and work as a
16 friendship through all this thing. It's almost like a
17 family relationship.
18 And the way I look at it, it's just like --
19 and I am a member of the Farm Bureau and have served on
20 various committees with the Farm Bureau -- and just as a
21 farmer it is very important. And I know that a
22 veterinarian, there's no way that I could pay, or anybody
23 else, to come out and treat every calf that I have with a
24 problem, but they can give me direction in treating and
25 help me treat some part of them. But again, give me
2 And going back to an earlier point, a
3 veterinarian is just as essential to my operation as is
4 Farm Bureau and other organizations. We talk about
5 legislative issues, and thank goodness we as farmers we
6 get so wrapped up and so tied up in our own operation, we
7 have Farm Bureau representing us and listening with an ear
8 for potential things that affect us. And thank goodness
9 we have them and we have veterinarians.
10 I guess a couple of points that I might
11 make, I know we talked about veterinarians and, you know,
12 haul-in facilities are very important, and more and more
13 it is a fact that our producers, especially in our county
14 and others, Lincoln County is one of the largest
15 beef-producer counties in the state, but again, those
16 herds are less than 25 a head, and we all know that's a
18 So, educating, more and more there are
19 novices that romance the idea of cattle and farming and
20 those kinds of things, thank goodness for these programs
21 that we have come up with to help educate them on
22 practices and how to give vaccines and those kind of
23 things. But there again, that's why it's so important for
24 this vet/client relationship.
25 As I see, and I have, as a producer I have
1 bought pharmaceuticals from mail-order catalogs and those
2 kind of things, but I would really feel awkward when it
3 came to deliver that calf in the middle of the night to
4 call veterinarian when I haven't been using that vet, and
5 been buying all those vaccines somewhere else, I'd have a
6 hard time calling him out to come and work on my animal.
7 Again, it's essential that we keep that relationship.
8 I guess one thing that worries me a little
9 bit, I know this past year in the legislature we talked
10 about veterinary practices, and pregnancy check in
11 particular was visited, and no action was taken. And I
12 know that, as an example, vaccines and antibiotics have
13 been sold, have kind of been taken away from the
14 veterinarian. And to me, with new vaccines coming out,
15 new antibiotics are coming out, it's to important that we
16 have a responsible use of these vaccines and antibiotics.
17 And that we have this veterinary/client relationship in
18 educating us on how to use those.
19 It's so important I think that beef, that we
20 have one of the safest food supplies in the world, and I
21 think that goes without a doubt. And producers that have
22 spoken here tonight, I know they take pride in managing
23 their cattle. We are stewards for some short number of
24 years over the land and over our animals, and I do, I know
25 they do take very good care of their animals. And I
1 applaud them and I appreciate it. But, again, it's very
2 important that we keep the veterinarian in the loop.
3 And again, going back to pregnancy checking,
4 I don't see that by any means we should -- to a degree,
5 pregnancy checking is a very essential part of what a
6 veterinarian does and it's kind of the meat of what they
7 do. They have the opportunity to diagnose problems and
8 those things, so we don't need to take that away from
10 Again, that is part of the meat, as the
11 veterinarian comes out it kind of subsidizes. We could
12 not afford the OBs and those kind of things if we took
13 away pregnancy checking, someone's bread and butter and
14 meat of what they do. And the opportunity that they have
15 to help us at home with the problems that we have, even
16 with bulls or whatever, they need to be on the farm. So,
17 without rambling any further....
18 MR. DiPIETRO: Thank you. Any questions? I
19 think what you're expressing is that you need to have
20 value added to your operation by retaining the services of
21 the veterinarian; correct?
22 MR. CARTER: Definitely. I think we have to
23 work hand in hand.
24 MR. DiPIETRO: That's very admireable.
25 Thanks very much. Anybody else?
1 (WHEREUPON, no responses.)
2 MR. DiPIETRO: Going once, going twice? All
3 in, all done? Three times.
4 (WHEREUPON, no responses.)
5 MR. DiPIETRO: Thanks very much for coming
6 tonight, we appreciate everybody, all of us. Have a safe
7 journey home. Thank you.
9 (WHEREUPON, this meeting
10 is adjourned.)