Academics Tracking Options Food Animal Track

Food animal track photo: instructor and student with bovine calf.

Food Animal Track

Exciting career opportunities

Did you know that food animal veterinarians are in high demand? There is a shortage of these professionals who play a crucial role in protecting the safety of our food supply and biosecurity of our country. There are national programs offering student loan debt forgiveness to assist veterinarians who pursue this career path and practice in underserved areas.  Career options include:

  • Private practice & consultation
  • Specialization through board certification
  • Teaching and research
  • Regulatory medicine
  • Public health

Courses designed to develop excellent food animal specialists

Students in the food animal track gain additional pre-clinical and clinical skills and knowledge in food supply medicine, preparing them for roles as the nation’s future food animal specialists. The food animal track curriculum includes courses such as:

  • Food Animal Medicine and Surgery I & II - Advanced study of the in-depth information on the common disorders of the major body systems of cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs. Evaluate clinical signs, diagnostic tests, and treatments for disorders of individual animals with hands-on laboratories to emphasize medical and surgical skills needed for food animal practitioners. Engage in discussions regarding herd problems, preventive aspects of herd problems, and the regulatory and health aspects of herd management using clinical cases to emphasize major aspects of herd health programs.
  • Food Animal Clinical Problem Solving – Advanced study of food animal clinical cases in a problem oriented format. Although the majority of the problems presented will begin with the individual animal case, emphasis will be placed on control and prevention in the flock or herd. Examine aspects of outbreak/disease investigation, production medicine, economics, and epidemiology.
  • Food Animal Nutrition – Advanced study in the practical feeding guidelines for food animals. Special consideration given to the relationship of diet to nutrient excesses and deficiencies that result in clinical disorders. Explore diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of metabolic disorders of food animals.
  • Food Animal Theriogenology – Advanced study of the practice of theriogenology in a food animal or mixed animal practice. Examine reproductive management for herds of food animal species including cattle, sheep, goats, and swine with an emphasis on clinical aspects of reproductive management.
  • Advanced Dairy Herd & Beef Herd Management - These clerkships provide additional training and experience in understanding the herd based aspects of dairy and beef cattle medicine and management and the veterinarian's role in economically producing a safe, wholesome food supply. Engage in a combination of interactive discussion topics and herd visits to develop observational and decision making skills.

Extensive learning opportunities beyond the classroom

Food animal trackers in our program have many opportunities beyond the classroom to gain knowledge and develop essential skills.

  • Food Animal Field Service – The college’s Large Animal Hospital is home to one of the busiest ambulatory Food Animal Field Service units in the nation which provides on-the-farm primary and emergency patient care and preventive health care programs to approximately 45,000 animals per year. Among the livestock receiving reproductive, medical, and surgical care from our field service are 2,400 beef cows owned by the Virginia Department of Corrections and large herds of beef cows, swine, sheep, and a 200-cow dairy operation owned by Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Experienced faculty and staff use a student-focused approach to provide hands-on learning through a large and diverse set of opportunities, patients, and clients.
  • Bovine palpation team – Join students dedicated to refining their skills in the palpation of the bovine reproductive system. Members of the bovine palpation team attend weekend labs to palpate cows to determine pregnancy and normal and abnormal structures in the reproductive system. Some team members are selected to represent the college in the palpation competition at the national Student AVMA symposium in the spring each year. In March 2012, VA-MD Vet Med's team placed second in this competition.
  • Food Animal Practitioners Club (FAPC) – The FAPC at VA-MD Vet Med provides educational opportunities for students interested in cattle, swine, sheep, goats, camelids, and poultry medicine. Students participate in weekly rounds with food animal clinicians, wet labs providing clinical experiences with a variety of species, and monthly meetings featuring presentations by guest speakers on topics such as career opportunities, practicing food animal medicine abroad, and new products and technologies.
  • Practitioner and faculty mentors – In the first three years of the program, students are able to shadow food animal field service faculty during weekend and emergency hours. Students also receive mentorship from regional practitioners, many of them VA-MD Vet Med alumni, through the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association and Maryland Veterinary Medical Association Mentor Program.


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