Collaborating to assess capacity in rural Ontario

Funded by the OMAFRA Special Initiatives program in 2020, Drs. Sara Epp (University of Guelph), David Kelton (University of Guelph), Steven Roche (ACER) and a diverse team of industry stakeholders began a project aimed at examining the needs, capacity, and barriers to accessing food animal veterinary services in underserved areas of rural Ontario.

Objectives and methods

The objectives of this project were to (1) support the livestock and veterinary sectors in determining social and economic barriers to growth amongst veterinary practices; (2) review current programs and identify gaps; and (3) assess the current and future needs for veterinarians in rural Ontario. This project involved several phases, including:

  1. Literature review: A review of the current evidence for implementing academic, government, and veterinary strategies for overcoming current barriers
  2. Mapping and identifying underserved areas: Using ArcGIS software, veterinary services areas and regional farm densities were mapped to identify gaps in service areas
  3. Interviews: Interviews were conducted with stakeholders to understand past programs as well as current needs. From this, two surveys were developed for veterinarians and producers
  4. Focus groups: Current and prospective veterinary students from the Ontario Veterinary College were asked to provide feedback on what might attract them to underserved areas


The results of this work are presented in two complementary documents. Click on the documents to read more:

Examining Need, Capacity, and Barriers to Veterinary Access in ON: This document provides a summary of each phase of work.

Jurisdictional Scan on Veterinary Access: Presents an in-depth summary of our findings and reviews the current evidence for addressing this challenge in other jurisdictions.

Have questions?

Please contact Steven Roche ( for any additional questions, comments, or information requests related to this project.

Summary of Recommendations


  • Reviewing northern-specific funding programs for veterinarians
  • Increase funding for externships in northern Ontario


  • Review student recruitment strategies, focusing on northern students
  • Assess effectiveness of current large animal programming

Veterinarians & Veterinary Organizations

  • CVO should continue work on this issue with their task force
  • Explore opportunities to increase use of registered veterinary technicians

Northern Municipalities

  • Explore attraction and retention strategies for new veterinarians
  • Improve attraction and retention strategies of new immigrants

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