As I drove through the countryside on farm calls this week, I thought how fortunate I am to have a job where I enjoy the outdoors and work with a great group of farmers in an industry that I cherish. I have been a veterinarian for 15 years and can still remember those first weeks after graduation and starting my new job.

The latest “crop” of veterinarians is graduating now, and some of these new faces will be arriving on farms over the next few months. Here are a few thoughts on how we can all help these new faces enjoy a successful veterinary career — and provide your farm with quality animal care for years to come.

Living a rare dream

Becoming a veterinarian is a difficult task. There are currently 32 veterinary schools in North America and they accept about one out of every six graduates. Just like dairy farming, these individuals began with a dream, as well as a large financial commitment and often a mountain of debt to repay.

Many veterinary students are not from rural communities and few have a farm background. Long hours, emergency duties, physical labor, exposure to elements, and lower pay than can be achieved in an urban practice makes becoming a large-animal veterinarian less exciting for many of these students. 

For these reasons, the number of veterinarians who decide to practice in rural communities or provide services to dairy farms has decreased over the past several years. 

As a veterinary practice owner, I try to keep my associate veterinarians happy so they enjoy their job and want to continue working in our community. I believe that dairy farmers can do things to help attract veterinarians to their community as well.

Therefore, when that new face arrives on your farm this summer:

  • Give him or her a chance. It is obvious he is not as fast, confident or adept as the experienced veterinarian. Do not try to hurry him or show impatience. Instead, try to remember the first time you milked a cow or drove a tractor. Someone first gave you a chance; now is your opportunity to return the favor.
  • Don’t be overly critical. Every new veterinarian is nervous that he is going to mess something up or make a mistake. Show some confidence in him. A confident and relaxed person always does a better job.
  • Show interest in him or her as a person. A big obstacle for many fledgling veterinarians is that they don’t know anybody in their new community. Have a cup of coffee with them, invite them to a social event or go out for lunch. Extend a friendly hand to make them feel welcome.
  • Compliment the new veterinarian. I still remember the dairyman who gave my boss a compliment about a job I had done. If you are happy with the job they did, then tell them.
  • Gender shouldn’t matter. About 75 percent of the new graduates today are women. A veterinarian’s job is not all physical, and often strength plays little into what I do each day. Women bring great qualities and skills to the veterinary profession and dairy industry
  • You are not being overcharged. Your local veterinary practice understands that the new veterinarian will be slower and less experienced. Usually, they are adjusting fees to compensate for this until the new veterinarian gains experience. If you have any concerns about a new veterinarian, address it to the practice owner professionally. We want to know if you have concerns.

The new veterinarian that steps onto your farm this summer has a better education and set of experiences than most of us had in veterinary school. He or she has current knowledge, enthusiasm, and is overflowing with energy and excitement. Welcome him or her onto your farm!

Fred Gingrich is a practicing veterinarian and owner of Country Roads Veterinary Services, Inc. in Ashland, Ohio.