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Animal Care

Good News! State Budget Includes Money for Large Animal Hospital and New Equine Veterinary Center

A rendering of the expanded Large Animal Hospital on the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine campus.

The NC State College of Veterinary Medicine community is celebrating the inclusion in the state budget of $70 million for expanding and renovating the college’s Large Animal Hospital to include a new Equine Veterinary Center to better serve horses and livestock. The budget also includes money to increase the number of students the college can accept in each veterinary class.

We are so grateful for the support of the state of North Carolina as we move forward with this important construction project,” says Dr. Kate Meurs, dean of the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine. “This new funding will allow us to provide cutting-edge care in a cutting-edge facility and to make sure our trainees know and have access to the most modern techniques as we continue to serve our community.” 

With our research, diagnostics, hospital care and graduates in the field, the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine supports North Carolina’s food animal industry that contributed to the state’s $13.3 billion farm cash receipts in 2021. Almost 70% of the receipts involve livestock, dairy and poultry production.

“We are thrilled to see the Large Animal Hospital expansion gain budgetary approval,” says Dr. Anthony Blikslager, interim director of Veterinary Medical Services. “This could not come at a better time. We have been working toward developing state-of-the-art facilities over the last 20 years, and now we routinely fill our facility with patients from all over North Carolina. We desperately need new facilities for critical care and for managing patients from disease outbreaks from across the state.”

North Carolina’s equine industry adds more than $2 billion to the state’s economy each year and employs more than 25,000 people. Meurs says the new Equine Veterinary Center will allow NC State to continue playing its pivotal roles in providing specialty equine care on campus and training the majority of veterinarians who are central to the health of the more than 250,000 horses in the state

“Horses are a critical part of the agricultural industry here, as well as important family members for many people throughout the state,” Meurs says. “The NC State College of Veterinary Medicine has been proud to provide critical medical care for these animals when they need us most. This facility also will allow us to provide better care for goats, sheep and cows, too.”

Out of space no more

Large numbers of farm animals mean NC State’s Veterinary Hospital stays busy, often with limited room to accommodate additional animals in need. 

“Our Farm Animal Service was one of the busiest large animal services over the past year, and we have outgrown our facility and don’t have enough space to see the patients who come to us on a daily basis,” says Dr. Derek Foster, associate professor of ruminant medicine. “We need more stall space. We need more space to treat the animals, both cattle and goats — not to mention the sheep and alpacas and llamas that North Carolinians have.”

Additionally, the state budget granted approval for the College of Veterinary Medicine to increase the size of its incoming classes from 100 to 125 veterinary students per year.

“One of the most common things that we hear from friends of the College of Veterinary Medicine, whether that’s pet owners or people in the agricultural industry, is how difficult it is for them to find enough veterinary care and veterinary expertise these days,” Meurs says. “Our ability to increase our class size is one small step in the right direction with that.”

At NC State, 80 percent of the students in each doctor of veterinary medicine class come from North Carolina. 

“We know that approximately 60 percent of our students stay in North Carolina after graduating,” Meurs says. “So we’re very focused, and we’re very excited that through growing our class size we’ll be bringing more students directly back to the state.”

Giving farmers a hand 

Dr. Harrison Dudley, left, who received his DVM from the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine, is a livestock veterinarian in Kinston in Eastern North Carolina.

Increasing the College of Veterinary Medicine’s class size helps NC State tackle the veterinarian shortage in rural areas, which are particularly hard-hit by staffing issues yet house the vast majority of North Carolina’s farm animals. 

The CVM is expanding its outreach efforts in these areas to prospective students, many of whom are interested in returning to their home communities to practice medicine.

“Since the needs for veterinarians in those areas are so great, we really are increasing recruitment strategies for working with regional universities and community colleges in more rural areas to encourage their students to think about veterinary medicine and for them to feel this is an accessible and incredibly rewarding career,” Meurs says. 

The expansion of the Large Animal Hospital also will allow the college to better train students for those rural roles.

“We need more practitioners in nonurban areas, and our students are integrated into our veterinary services,” Foster says. “They get an opportunity to get hands-on training with cattle and small ruminants here in the teaching hospital, and they also get field experience with cattle, goats, pigs and poultry so that they are prepared to go out and serve our state’s agricultural areas.”

The General Assembly established the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine in 1978. The college admitted its first class of DVM students in August 1981 and graduated its first class of veterinarians in May 1985. The college dedicated its main facility in April 1983.