Livestock Veterinarian: Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for livestock veterinarians. Get the facts about education requirements, certification, job duties and salary to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Animal Care degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Livestock Veterinarian?

Livestock veterinarians, also called large animal veterinarians, specialize in caring for large animals, such as cows, horses, goats and pigs, usually on farms and ranches. They perform many of the same tasks as a small animal veterinarian, but may have to travel to visit the animal instead of having the animal come to a clinic. Livestock veterinarians treat wounds, administer vaccinations, prescribe medication, perform diagnostic tests and operate if necessary. These professionals may have to euthanize an animal if their condition is untreatable. Livestock veterinarians work closely with farmers and ranchers to explain proper care and help with any preventative measures. Take a look at the following chart for an overview of how to enter this profession.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree or pre-veterinary studies; DVM degree
Education Field of Study Bachelor's/pre-vet: biology, natural science
DVM: Veterinary medicine
Key Skills Use specialized veterinary knowledge to treat livestock animals, such as horses, cattle, sheep
Licensure Required All states require licensing, specifics vary by state; board certification in large animal specialties available
Job Growth (2014-2024 ) 9% (for all veterinarians)*
Average Salary (2015) $99,000 (for all veterinarians)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Do I Study to Become a Livestock Veterinarian?

Although a bachelor's degree is not required for entry into all veterinary schools, you can begin your preparation through undergraduate coursework in biology, organic chemistry, anatomy and other pre-veterinary medicine studies. In addition to completing the prerequisite courses, you will also prepare for the required standardized entrance exam, which may include the veterinary college admission test (VCAT) or graduate record examination (GRE), depending on the school.

Following your undergraduate studies, you will complete a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program, which generally takes four years. DVM programs emphasize a general knowledge of veterinary medicine, as well as prepare livestock veterinarians to specialize in animals used for resources, such as cattle, sheep or pigs. Most veterinary schools also include clinical practice and rotations towards the end of the DVM program.

How Do I Become Certified?

You will need licensure before entering the practice, which requires a DVM in most states, passing a board examination and adhering to additional protocol mandated by the state in which you wish to work. To pursue board certification in a veterinary specialty, such as beef cattle or dairy practice, you will need to undertake another 3-4 years of veterinary residency, which will give you the opportunity to concentrate in your veterinary sub-discipline.

Where Can I Work?

As a veterinary graduate, you can pursue a wide range of opportunities in private or group practice, food safety or research positions. In private or group practice, you can expect to travel to nearby farms or distant ranches on a regular basis. Cattle and horses are capable of inflicting harm by kicking, so there is the potential for hazard. At times, your work will involve carrying out everything from simple procedures to complex surgery in outdoor settings or adverse weather.

What Sort of Salary Can I Expect?

In May 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the average salary for veterinarians, including those who specialize in livestock, was $99,000 (www.bls.gov). This figure may fluctuate according to the size, type and location of an individual veterinarian's practice. Additionally, the BLS predicted a 9% employment growth for veterinarians during the 2014-2024 decade.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Physicians, surgeons and medical scientists are a few related careers that require a doctoral or professional degree. Physicians and surgeons perform many of the same medical tasks as a veterinarian, but with human patients. Physicians typically diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries with various medications, while surgeons may treat conditions with surgery. Medical scientists also work to improve human health by performing clinical trials and other research conducted within a lab setting.

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