Did you ever think that shelves at the grocery store would be empty? Over the past few months many of us have been reminded how important the food supply chain is and all the players involved in that system to get a healthy food safe product to the consumers.

Although, raising and having healthy livestock takes a team to get it safely to the consumer. Veterinarians and veterinarian assistants are key players in helping to take care of our livestock although we are seeing a shrinking decline in large animal caretakers.

It’s because of this demand that Mid-America Technology Center in Wayne is launching a new veterinary assistant program.

“We have always had students have an interest in working with animals and (MATC) has the opportunity to diversify and offer the new veterinary assistant program,” says MATC instructor Justin McGee.

“Never before has education and training been needed for protecting our animals that are involved in production agriculture.”

According to the USDA, or United States Department of Agriculture, there are 500 counties underserved by a veterinarian in 2019 with the vast majority in rural areas. There are shortages in 44 states and Oklahoma is one of those states being impacted.

Why have we seen a shrinkage in the veterinary industry? It has been a combined problem from veterinarians aging out and the long work hours and dangerous work situations with a lower returns compared to working with small animals.

“We are in crisis in having enough large animal veterinarians to serve our rural areas,” said Sheila Gilmore, co-owner of Garvin County Veterinary Clinic located west of Elmore City.

“My husband Dr. Gilmore and I want to support local internships and camps to help our young people see and understand the veterinary industry and hopefully persuade them to further their education to help be a part of this great industry.”

MATC will be a partner in working with local livestock producers, animal shelters and veterinarians to provide field trips, guest speakers and internships to help educate the students.

“We are excited to give high school and adult students the opportunity to enroll in a one-year program that will give them thorough training,” McGee said.

“It is our goal with the program to provide students with a career path that is needed and help our local employers and producers have trained individuals to care for their livestock.”

The MATC Veterinary Assistant Program for large animals will be launched in August.

McGee will be sharing more about the program starting at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 6 at the Community Building in Elmore City. It is a free program and anyone is invited to attend.

For more information, contact Justin McGee at jmcgee@matech.edu or 405-449-3391.

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