Do you like livestock and have a knack for science? This Texas university wants you

Grand champion steer crowned at the 2019 Fort Worth Stock Show

The grand champion steer was crowned in the junior steer competition at the Fort Worth Stock Show. Thirteen-year-old Aven Horn's European crossbred named Bentley was chosen as the winner.
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The grand champion steer was crowned in the junior steer competition at the Fort Worth Stock Show. Thirteen-year-old Aven Horn's European crossbred named Bentley was chosen as the winner.

Students planning careers in veterinary medicine will have more in-state school options starting in 2021 when Texas Tech University adds the state’s second program.

Texas A&M University has long been the only veterinary medical school in Texas. It was founded in 1916.

Now, Texas Tech’s plans for a new School of Veterinary Medicine move forward thanks to a $17.35 million allotment from the state that will pay for start-up operations. Texas Tech has also raised $90 million in non-state funds for infrastructure costs.

Funding for the school was approved as part of Texas’ budget for the next two years. Gov. Greg Abbott recently signed off on the budget.

The university plans to enroll its first class in the fall of 2021. Faculty recruitment, for the graduate program, is underway.

Texas Tech’s School of Veterinary Medicine will be located in Amarillo, which the university describes as the “epicenter of livestock production.” It will be next to Texas Tech’s Schools of Pharmacy, Medicine and Health Professions.

A demand for veterinarians

The program is expected to train a new generation of licensed veterinarians in Texas, where only 180 of about 6,600 veterinarians serve livestock in rural counties. Of those working in rural communities, more than 40 percent are older than 60.

Texas Tech has maintained there is a need for a second vet school in Texas because the opportunities for veterinarian education haven’t kept up with demand. It stated that in 2017, more Texas students left the state to study veterinary medicine than the number of first-year students enrolled in the state’s only school.

There were 600 applicants to veterinary medicine that year in Texas. Only 136 enrolled in Texas’ only program due to program space, according to Texas Tech.

Guy Loneragan, the dean for new veterinary school, said the program is designed to support small, agricultural and regional communities across the state.

North Texas, which includes rural communities, livestock operators and many high school student agricultural programs is expected to benefit from the new school, Loneragan said. Additionally, the program is a natural fit for Fort Worth’s reputation as Cowtown, which is the site for many livestock and equine shows.

Cowtown is home to the annual Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo every January — an event that draws hundreds of thousands.

Loneragan said the new school’s programs will also support food production and animal agriculture, which is Texas’ second leading source of export dollars.

“Protecting the state’s animal agriculture from foreign animal diseases benefits the entire state’s economy,” Loneragen said in an email.

Arlington Heights students represent a growth spurt in urban agricultural programs participating in the Fort Worth Stock Show.

A growing interest in agricultural science

At Fort Worth schools, agriculture and veterinary and animal sciences are offered to students through the district’s Gold Seal programs of choice. The programs are offered at Arlington Heights and Diamond Hill-Jarvis high schools.

News of a second veterinary school is welcomed among district educators.

“One of the struggles is that there’s only been one school in Texas for so long,” said Linsey Shands, an agriculture science teacher at Arlington Heights.

Shands said many high school students arrive to their program with plans of becoming veterinarians, but some have had to adjust those ambitions because there has been a limited number of slots in Texas. The reality hits in the pocketbook because students have to weigh the possibility of going out of state and the costs associated with such a plan, she said.

“It would be amazing for our students,” Shands said of Texas Tech’s new school.

Shands said the trends in veterinary medicine are evident in their program, which includes raising livestock. She said with larger animals, students and educators have to look for veterinarians outside the city limits.

Texas Tech’s new school also comes as interest in agriculture and veterinary programs is increasing at Arlington Heights. This past school year, the program had about 450 students. Shands said they are expecting about 700 students in the upcoming school year.

The school hired two new teachers to meet demand. The campus now has a total of five teachers for the program, she said.

“That’s major for our urban school,” she said.

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Diane Smith, a graduate from the University of Texas at Austin, has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 1997. Smith, who has covered municipal government, immigration and education, has won multiple awards for reporting, most recently as part of a Star-Telegram team recognized by the Headliners Foundation of Texas for coverage of child abuse and Fort Worth’s Las Vegas Trail area.