Provincial funding will boost number of spots for Manitoba students at Sask. veterinary college

More Manitoba students will be able to train to become veterinarians through a program in Saskatchewan after a government funding boost, which the province hopes will help ease a shortage of veterinarians in Manitoba.

The province announced the additional funding Thursday, which will increase the number of spots available for Manitoba students at the University of Saskatchewan’s Western College of Veterinary Medicine each year from 15 to 20.

The annual intake boost “will support more students to pursue this important career path in order to help build our province’s animal health-care capacity for years to come,” Jon Reyes, Manitoba’s advanced education, skills and immigration minister, said in a Thursday news release.

The province is working with college administration to increase the intake for the 2023-24 school year, he said.

Through an interprovincial funding agreement, Manitoba currently has 15 guaranteed subsidized seats every year for new students at the Saskatoon-based veterinary college.

Thursday’s announcement will add just over $539,000 in funding for the 2023-24 school year, to a total of just over $7 million. That amount will rise to $7.6 million by 2024-25, the province said.

The end goal will be to support a total of 80 Manitoba students annually through the four-year program, Thursday’s news release said.

Agriculture Minister Derek Johnson said animal health is essential to the success of Manitoba’s agriculture sector.

“Investing in the training of more veterinarians, particularly those with large-animal expertise, will ensure this valuable support is available when needed,” he said in Thursday’s news release.

Brown cow with ear tags in confined feedlot.
The added Manitoba seats at the college will be targeted to supporting commercial livestock, such as cattle, bison and pigs, to address a critical labour market need, Manitoba’s agriculture minister says. (Nati Harnik/The Associated Press)

Johnson said the added Manitoba seats at the college will target the support of commercial livestock, such as cattle, bison and pigs, to address a critical labour market need.

Manitoba Pork echoed that need, applauding Thursday’s announcement in a separate news release.

“A shortage of labour is restricting the growth potential of the hog sector, and today’s announcement will help address one key aspect of this problem,” the industry organization said in its news release.

Earlier this year, the Manitoba Veterinary Medical Association said the vacancy rate for veterinarians in Manitoba was 15 per cent — more than three times greater than the province’s average job vacancy rate.

The Manitoba Veterinary Medical Association also voiced its approval, saying the extra seats at the college will help ease a shortage of veterinarians in the province in the long term.

In the shorter term, the association “will continue to engage with government, veterinary professionals and other stakeholders to address the shortage,” MVMA president Dr. Keri Hudson-Reykdal said in the province’s news release.

The funding boost comes after months of dialogue between Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative government and livestock producers and other stakeholders in the province, including Manitoba Pork, Keystone Agricultural Producers, and the Manitoba Veterinary Medical Association, according to the news release.

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