Bursary set to attract veterinarians

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Seeking to recruit veterinarians for large animals to the High Prairie region, Big Lakes County has finalized a grant program to offer funding to fill two positions.
At its regular meeting May 25, council approved a motion to accept the policy for the program to offer an annual contract of $20,000 for a practising vet and a bursary of $20,000 for a student pursing a career in the vet field.
Council approved the motion that the county award a maximum two contracts or one bursary and one contract.
“I want to give a student a chance,” says High Prairie East – Banana Belt Councillor Tyler Airth, a farmer who made the motion that regulates the number of students and practising vets the county will consider.
Recipients must agree to commit a minimum 75 per cent of their time to large animals, which refers to bovine livestock, horses, swine, goats and sheep, the policy states.
The grant is structured through a signed agreement that guarantees the vet would live and work within the county for each year the vet accepts the grant money, says Brett Hawken, director of community and protective services.
Students applying for the bursary must be enrolled full time in a recognized Canadian post-secondary veterinarian medicine program and disclose in the Big Lakes application the names and amounts of other bursaries approved during the current year.
All bursary recipients must sign a contract to live in the county for the term of the agreement.
If a non-student recipient has received a bursary and wishes to re-apply for the bursary the following year, the person must inform the county at least 60 days prior to the end of the bursary year.
Student recipients who do not graduate within three years of applying to the program or who do not meet the return-to-service commitment stated in the agreement must repay the bursary in full.
“The idea is to create a grant program to supplement a working vet’s salary or recruit a student to encourage a large-animal vet to move, live and work full time in the municipality,” Hawken says.
“The goal is to have a full-time large-animal vet for producers so they don’t have to travel to Valleyview, Peace River and Westlock when they are having issues with their large animals.”
The policy was reviewed and recommended by the agricultural advisory committee at its meeting April 14.
Council approved a recommendation at its regular meeting Dec. 8 to create the program to respond to a local need.
“We’re trying to attract vets for our area,” Airth says.
He says the specialized vets are vital to the county.
“Vets for large animals is very important for producers in our region and we need to recruit some to come here,” Airth says.
“We want to work with all partners to recruit a vet.”
Until 2020, the county was part of the Veterinary Services Incorporated [VSI], which cost the county $42,400 a year, Hawken says.
The program was not working to keep a vet in the area.

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