On April 23, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) released its “2013 AVMA Veterinary Workforce Report,” which estimates supply of veterinarians in the United States, at 90,200, exceeds demand for veterinary services 12.5 percent.

The authors note excess capacity does not translate to unemployment among veterinarians, but rather that some of their capacity to provide services is going unused.

During a news conference, Michael Dicks, PhD, director of AVMA’s Veterinary Economics Division, said the study indicates somewhat less of an oversupply of food-animal veterinarians compared with other specialties, with considerable variation between states and regions.

The report estimates 15 percent excess capacity for food animal veterinarians and 13 percent for mixed practices, compared with 23 percent excess capacity for equine practice and 18 percent for small-animal practice.

A table in the report lists their state-by-state estimates of oversupply for each practice type. For food-animal practices, the excess capacity ranges from 6 percent in Arkansas and 8 percent in Oklahoma to 34 percent in Nebraska, 31 percent in Mississippi and 30 percent in New Mexico.

The excess-capacity estimates for food-animal and mixed-practice veterinarians comes as a surprise, as conventional wisdom within the livestock industry is there are shortages of veterinary services in many areas.

The study was conducted by IHS Healthcare & Pharma in partnership with the Center for Health Workforce Studies at the State University of New York. A veterinary workforce survey used as a part of the study asked respondent veterinarians working in clinical practice to characterize their local veterinary market and their practices’ capacity and productivity. Fifty-three percent of those surveyed said that they believed they were working at less than full capacity. One question the AVMA hopes to answer going forward is why some clinical practices are working at full capacity and others are not.

The workforce study was conducted using expert analysis and the best available existing data collected by the AVMA, federal agencies and other organizations, as well as the aforementioned veterinary workforce survey. However, during the study major gaps in data were identified.

As a result of the national study, the AVMA also announced it has developed a new computer software model that will help paint a clearer picture of the current and future veterinary workforce.  The Veterinary Workforce Simulation Model, an AVMA-owned, proprietary software, will play a key role in helping the AVMA and its recently established Veterinary Economics Division produce ongoing updates that will enable the association, veterinarians, veterinary educators and other key stakeholders to better understand issues pertaining to the supply and demand for veterinarians and veterinary services, as well as overall veterinary economics.

The full report is available online from AVMA.