“The large animal vet practice is a very, very tough practice … hours are long, days are long.”

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The provincial government announced a $667,000 increase to its funding for the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) in Saskatoon on Friday, bringing its support for the college to just over $13 million in 2024-25.

At a media event in the unloading area at the large animal clinic, Advanced Education Minister Gordon Wyant said the province recognizes the important role of veterinary professionals, from caring for pets to livestock.

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Speaking to media after the announcement, Wyant said there is a shortage of veterinarians in Saskatchewan, especially in rural areas.

“These additional investments in the college will be helpful in terms of training more veterinarians to serve in rural communities,” he said.

Wyant said along with additional money to train more veterinarians, the government has also created incentives to attract graduates into large animal practice and rural areas, including student loan forgiveness for those who work in rural areas for extended amounts of time.

While the college is located on the campus of the University of Saskatchewan, its mission is to provide veterinary professionals for Manitoba and British Columbia as well. Wyant said those provinces are part of the process when it comes to providing support for the college.

“There’s certainly ongoing collaboration going now about what a new funding agreement is going to look like,” he said.

Provincial Agriculture Minister David Marit, who also attended the event, said groups representing ranchers and other livestock producers have been worried for years about the number of veterinarians practising in the province.

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“What they were always concerned about a few years ago was that we were losing rural vets and large animal vets,” he said.

Professionals were leaving rural areas to work in cities, and leaving the large animal practice, which led the province to introduce incentives to boost their numbers in rural areas, Marit said.

“The large animal vet practice is a very, very tough practice … hours are long, days are long,” he added.

Marit said increased animal health services can also benefit spinoff industries, like processing plants. Besides their economic benefits, livestock are also important in helping conserve native prairie grasslands, he said.

“In order to grow (the livestock sector), we’ve got to have the professional services there as well.”

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