In 2008, Dr. Virginia Fajt, clinical associate professor in the Department of Veterinary Physiology & Pharmacology (VTPP) in the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), came up with a brilliant idea.
Collaborating with veterinary faculty Drs. Dan Posey, Jeff Musser, and Floren “Buddy” Faries, Fajt devised a concept that would engage second- and third-year veterinary students in food supply veterinary medicine and, hopefully, impact students’ career choices.
The result of that collaboration, the Food Animal Production Tour, now provides an innovative, experiential enhancement of students’ learning, building upon their knowledge base of the numerous opportunities in food supply veterinary medicine. Since its inception, 58 students have gone through the Food Animal Production Tour in the Texas Panhandle.
The tour focuses on providing students with a working knowledge and background in animal agriculture by allowing students to discuss and learn about the roles of food supply veterinarians.
The six-day tour, which runs Sunday through Friday, is designed to expose students to multiple types of production units within a relatively short time; to access prototypical, well-run operations, which will showcase the veterinary career opportunities in the field; and to introduce production concepts and terminology of the food animal industries. It also acquaints students with opportunities for future externships and elective courses, while also improving their ability to work within food supply veterinary medicine.
“I had the distinct pleasure of attending the tour and must say that it was an extremely enlightening and educational experience,” said Kameron Soules, third-year veterinary student at Texas A&M University. “Until then, I had never seen a feedlot, dairy, processing facility, or a swine production facility firsthand, and I was exceedingly impressed.
“Dr. Posey and Dr. Griffin did a fantastic job of introducing us to people in the industry, as well as to veterinarians working in the Texas Panhandle. We were an inquisitive group and our questions were always taken seriously and answered thoroughly,” Soules said. “Due to this tour, I will be seeking an externship at one of the veterinary practices we visited, during my fourth year, and will be tracking either mixed or food animal.”
The tour’s format exposes students to modern food supply veterinarians’ roles in feedlots, dairies, swine operations, and rural private practice. This year’s tour included partnering with the Dalhart-based Full Circle Dairy, JBS Swine Operations, and Circle H Animal Health; the Amarillo-based Randall County Feedyards, Texas Cattle Feeders Association, Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Lab, and Tyson Packing House; the Dimmitt-based Dimmitt Veterinary Clinic; the Hereford-based Hereford Veterinary Clinic; and the Panhandle-based Carson County Veterinary Clinic.
“The Food Animal Production Tour is an elective in the students’ veterinary-school curriculum,” Posey said. “An important aspect of the tour is the veterinary students’ opportunities to talk with agricultural leaders, dairy and feedyard managers, agriculture employees, food animal veterinarians in the industry, food animal veterinarians in private practice, and veterinary diagnosticians.
“The tour is an important method to introduce veterinary students to large-scale production agriculture,” he said. “We are very thankful for our educational partners and appreciate their impact on the educational process of this tour.”
One of the tour’s main objectives is to take the student out of the classroom to develop the learner’s understanding of the “Learning, Experiencing, Reflection” cycle through experiential learning; students learn the concepts in food supply veterinary medicine in the classroom, experience it in the daily tour events, and reflect on the concepts through open discussion and journaling, according to Posey.
“The tour has changed over time and is now focused on 3VM students who are exploring the career options in food supply veterinary medicine,” he said. “This also exposes the 3VM student to rural practice experience and the many opportunities for veterinarians in food animal careers outside of private practice.”
This year’s participants were: Kameron Soules, Michelle Morelli, Libby Woodruff, Susannah Jones, Pamela May, Hannah Klein, Anne Jablinski, Ben Shepard, and Mary Cartagena.
“This was a career-altering experience for me and I will encourage others to attend next year. Thank you for funding this program and I hope that you continue to do so for future classes,” Soules said. “I think that this was a fantastic way to get student exposure to food animal production and West Texas opportunities! Thank you, again.”
One of the key components in this year’s Food Animal Production Tour is the CVM’s partnership with West Texas A&M University’s (WTAMU) Department of Agriculture and Natural Sciences.
WTAMU was instrumental in the success of this year’s tour by providing a welcoming environment, faculty resources to assist in instruction, sharing their connections to agriculture industry, and providing numerous departmental resources. Thanks to WTAMU for their extraordinary help in educating future food animal veterinarians.