We need a companion animal vet and ideas for veterinary shortage area nominations

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board of animal health

Animal Bytes

October 2023

Apply to serve on the Board of Animal Health

Apply Today

The Board of Animal Health is growing from six to seven members. The seventh post is brand new and must be held by a licensed veterinarian with companion animal experience. Interested applicants can apply for the position on the Secretary of State's website.

All applicants are screened by the Governor's office and they make the final appointment. Terms are four years and incumbents may reapply for their positions. Members must attend four quarterly meetings, virtual options are available on a case-by-case basis, and are reimbursed for travel. Meetings are held around the state with input sought from Board members.

The Board works to protect the health of the state’s domestic animals through education and cooperation with veterinarians, producers, owners and communities. Members play an integral part in guiding agency staff and annually appointing an executive director and state veterinarian.

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Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program

Nominate a shortage area by November 6

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture is soliciting nominations for veterinary shortage situations across the country. We've been allotted a maximum of seven nomination areas to be filled in Minnesota next federal fiscal year.

After a nomination for a geographic area is approved, veterinarians are given an opportunity to compete for an award through the USDA's Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP), which reimburses qualified student loan debt in exchange for veterinarians working in those rural areas of need.

The VMLRP helps decrease student debt by incentivizing service in designated shortage areas and paying off a portion of qualified loans. If selected for a VMLRP award, veterinarians must commit to at least three years in rural practice to receive $25,000 annually in loan repayment.

Suggestions for nominations of specific geographic areas in need can be sent to Dr. Courtney Wheeler at courtney.wheeler@state.mn.us or 612-756-2810.

USDA wraps up third annual ASF Action Week

The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) hosted its third annual African Swine Fever (ASF) Action Week October 2-6. The event continues to focus on U.S. swine producers, small farms and pig owners helping protect the U.S. swine herd from disease.

Thankfully, ASF has never been detected in the U.S. However, it was detected in the Dominican Republic and Haiti in 2021. Since those detections the USDA has partnered with industry and states to enhance already strong safeguards to protect U.S. swine from this costly disease. The USDA says if the disease ever became endemic in the U.S., it could take more than a decade and billions of dollars to eradicate.

One big takeaway from the annual event was the Protect Our Pigs awareness campaign. The Protect Our Pigs website has a bevy of free resources including custom videos, downloadable materials, and interactive training guides for producers.

Biosecurity research helps protect farmed cervid herds

Amid the ongoing threat of chronic wasting disease (CWD) devastating deer populations nationwide, a recent University of Minnesota study has turned its attention to the often-overlooked question of how the disease may spread from wild deer to farmed cervids. CWD is a highly contagious and often fatal ailment for deer and elk, currently lacks any treatment or vaccine, making prevention crucial.

The study, featured in Preventive Veterinary Medicine, delved into various transmission pathways and risk factors associated with CWD in farmed cervid herds across Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Researchers collected data from 71 herds in these states, encompassing both CWD-infected and disease-free herds. Their dataset included details on animal movements, regulatory breaches, CWD test results, distances to infected wild deer, and interviews with farmers regarding their management practices.

The study identified two primary CWD transmission routes:

  1. Direct Contact with infected farmed cervids: Importing animals from herds later identified as CWD-positive presented a big risk of introducing the disease to susceptible farmed cervids, affecting 32-percent of the studied CWD-infected herds. Although regulations aim to prevent this once infected herds are recognized, the risk persists.

  2. Indirect Contact with infected wild deer: Risk factors for CWD transmission from wild deer to farmed cervids included CWD-positive wild deer near farms, scavengers near fences, single perimeter fencing, and practices attracting scavengers, like placing water sources near fences.

The study's findings underscore the importance of addressing CWD transmission from wild deer to farmed cervids and implementing biosecurity practices to mitigate risks. Further research into these indirect pathways and continued efforts to control CWD in wild deer populations remain essential for safeguarding farmed herds from disease.

September 27 Board Meeting Recording

The video recording of the Board's third quarterly meeting of 2023 is posted on our Board Members and Meetings webpage.