Want an edge to get into veterinary school? Tell the committee (hopefully with some honesty) that you want to work with large
animals, particularly cattle, hogs and other future entrees. Your chances increase slightly because you’ll actually
be considered a plus for diversity.
Large animals have lost their luster—to the point where some experts are becoming uneasy about the future safety of
the national food supply.
Areas of Kansas, Nebraska and other outposts already are struggling with shortages of large-animal vets, says Dr. W. Mark
Hilton, an associate professor in Purdue University’s veterinary school.
Hilton hasn’t heard of shortages in Indiana’s major food-producing regions—beef cattle in the south, and
dairies and hogs in the north. But shortages are possible if trends continue at Purdue and other schools.
“Do you want a safe food supply?” Hilton asks. “If we don’t have people who are as trained in large-animal,
that makes it much worse.”
A couple of decades ago, the vast majority of vet students wanted to work with large animals. Not anymore. Now, most want
to work with dogs, cats and other small creatures.
Only about 20 percent of the 72 incoming vet students at Purdue are moving toward large-animal practices. Hilton thinks the
pipeline would be adequate if the number were closer to 30 percent.
Many of the Millennials coming into vet schools would rather push buttons of high-tech equipment than slog through mud and
manure on farms, endure extreme seasonal heat and cold, and dodge flying hoofs.
Those all come with the territory, Hilton acknowledges. (It’s easier to “read” whether a cow will kick,
Hilton advises, but horses are unpredictable.)
However, he says the perception that small-animal vets make more money isn’t necessarily true. Studies have shown their
incomes to be roughly equivalent. Purdue grads started out at an average of $64,000 last year, and the number usually marches
to about $80,000 within five years. Farms will spend money on veterinarians if vets in effect become consultants who tell
them how to avoid medical expenses, Hilton says.
Purdue is getting so many prospects wanting to move into small-animal practices that the school now looks harder for large-animal
prospects if for no other reason than to avoid homogenous classes, he says. If you’re in a tight contest with a small-animal
aspirant and you like large animals? You’re probably in.
What do you think? For someone teetering on the edge of getting into vet school, would it be worth going with large animals?