The Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) in Saskatoon is training more students to work in large animal practices in rural areas.

The Prairies are facing a lack of large animal vets in rural areas as we start to see more veterinarians now reaching retirement.

Saskatchewan is increasing its annual investment to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine by $667 thousand dollars to $13.2 million for the 2024-25 fiscal year. 

Advanced Education Minister Gordon Wyant says we continue to see a rising demand for veterinary services in the province and they are a key support for our growing economy.

"This is a priority investment for Advanced Education that supports the continued implementation with five new seats, bringing the total now to 25 seats, that are available annually for Saskatchewan students." 

The WCVM has developed interprovincial agreements to accept a certain allotment of students from Saskatchewan, Manitoba and British Columbia. 

Manitoba increased their funding to the college last fall guaranteeing the number of seats for Manitoba students to 20, while British Columbia funds a total of 40 seats.

Dean Dr. Gillian Muir says the increased funding from Saskatchewan means the province will now subsidize a total of 25 seats.

"The increase for this year represents funding to support five students from Saskatchewan and, in particular five students from Saskatchewan who have interest and experience in livestock production and food animal medicine."

Agriculture Minister David Marit says by allocating seats for students who are interested in working in rural areas, we ensure the livestock industry have access to the top-quality veterinary services they need closer to home.

Muir notes they're seeing a lot of interest in veterinary medicine.

"There are many, many young people who want to be veterinarians who have worked with veterinarians in their high school and in their pre-vet years. They really want to be veterinarians and so we have a very strong interest from Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Of course, the the fact that we've got more availability for students to come and study here at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine that does increase their chances of obtaining a seat and becoming veterinarians."

Western Canadian Veterinary Students' Association president-elect and current student from North Battleford Garret Beatch says the college's agriculture-focused seats help to ensure that more rural Saskatchewan students with livestock experience will consider veterinary medicine as a future career.

Saskatchewan also has a program in place that forgives up to 20-thousand dollars in Saskatchewan student loan debt  for veterinary graduates working in rural and underserved areas.