While many people associate veterinarians and veterinary technicians with pets and other small animals, the fact is that there is a large and growing demand for veterinary professionals to work with large animals and livestock.
In fact, the first veterinarians were mainly focused on working with the larger production and draft animals that were such an important part of early America’s economy.
Today, while horses are no longer a fixture in every household, cattle and other livestock are a vital part of the farm economy.
In addition to the traditional need for vets and vet techs to work with large animals, the increasing focus on the well being and comfort of livestock has resulted in a need for an increased number of veterinary professionals to help private farms comply with federal, state and local regulations regarding the treatment of livestock.
This is further enhanced by the need to protect large herds from contagious diseases that could otherwise force ranchers to destroy hundreds or thousands of livestock animals. Finally, the increased emphasis on healthy food by many Americans has resulted in a drive to be able to certify that any meat or other products that are derived from livestock are of a very high quality.
The States with the Highest Demand for Vet Techs Specializing in Livestock
While most states have a number of livestock farms and ranches, the ten most important states in terms of cattle production for the year 2010 are listed below:
1. Texas: 11,900,000 cattle.
2. Nebraska: 6,450,000 cattle.
3. Kansas: 6,100,000 cattle.
4. California: 5,350,000 cattle.
5. Oklahoma: 4,500,000 cattle.
6. Iowa: 3,900,000 cattle.
7. Missouri: 3,900,000 cattle.
8. South Dakota: 3,650,000 cattle.
9. Wisconsin: 3,400,000 cattle.
10. Colorado: 2,750,000 cattle.
In addition to the total number of cattle and other livestock, a prospective vet tech should consider the state’s population. For example, Kansas and Nebraska have a far lower population than Texas, which can result for better career opportunities for those vet techs willing to move to a less populated state.
In addition, smaller states often find that ranching is more important to their overall economy, which can result in the establishment of incentive programs for qualified individuals seeking to become a certified or licensed vet tech.
Finally, because these states often have a long history of ranching, ranchers and associated professions such as veterinary professionals are highly esteemed by the community.
This can be very attractive for veterinary technicians who are seeking a career that makes them part of the community in addition to providing a stable living.
The Duties of a Large Animal Vet Tech
Large animal vet techs normally work with livestock animals such as cattle, or more rarely equines. In general, their duties are much the same as traditional vet techs, with the following exceptions:
- Large animal vet techs often work with a number of individual animals and are often focused on ensuring that the entire herd remains healthy. For this reason, the control of contagious diseases is a major part of their duties.
- Large animal vet techs work with veterinarians to treat large animals that may be frightened and/or hostile. Because of their size and weight, an unrestrained large animal may pose a serious threat to veterinary workers, making it important that the vet tech knows how to safely restrain these animals.
- Large animal vet techs often travel with the veterinary team to the animal’s location, rather than have the animal brought in to a clinic to be treated. This often requires that the vet tech be capable of working long hours in various types of weather.
Becoming a Large Animal Vet Tech
Most states require that a vet tech be certified or licensed before they can legally practice in the state. A minority of states do not require vet techs to be licensed. For this reason, an individual seeking to become a vet tech should check with the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) or their state’s professional licensing and certification agency in order to determine what the current licensing requirements for vet techs are.
In order to become a licensed veterinary technician in most states, the candidate must complete the following steps:
- Complete a veterinary technology program at an American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) accredited college.
- Take and pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE).
- In some cases, complete a state jurisprudence examination.
- Submit to any other state requirements, such as a criminal background check or the requirement to provide letters of recommendation.
Becoming Certified in States That do not Require Licensure
Vet techs working in states that do not require licensure can become certified through professional veterinary technician associations. This can be a wise decision, as certification will improve the vet techs professional and salary prospects.
In addition, most certifications require the vet tech to conform to the same professional standards required by state licensing bodies. Should the vet tech ever choose to move to a state where licensure is require, he or she may be able to obtain a license by endorsement, eliminating the need to repeat a vet tech program or retake the VTNE.
Becoming a Certified Specialist Vet Tech
Finally, a vet tech may seek to become a certified specialist in an area that is useful in treating large animals. The NAVTA has a number of recognized certification programs, ranging from nutrition to equine treatment.
In most cases, these specialties require the vet tech to have a large amount of experience, as well as mandating the completion of a number of educational requirements. In addition, most specialty certification programs also demand that any candidate’s complete a professional examination to prove their academic and practical qualifications.
Becoming a certified specialist can help a vet tech improve his or her professional and wage earning opportunities. In addition, some organizations will hire a certified specialist in preference to individuals who are not currently certified in a veterinary specialty. For this reason, individuals seeking to advance in their field should strongly consider obtaining certification in a veterinary specialty relating to the treatment of livestock or other large animals.
Ultimately, the livestock and production animal sector will continue to need skilled veterinary technicians.
In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) currently estimates that the number of vet techs will increase by at least 53 percent. Furthermore, many states that are heavily involved in ranching also have a vibrant job market for vet techs. For example, Texas and California currently are the two largest employers of vet techs. This makes the large animal field a very promising one for those vet techs seeking to obtain a stable and well paying job.
Working in the large animal and livestock care sector is an excellent career choice for a vet tech. In addition to enjoying a secure and professionally rewarding career, the vet tech can take pride in the fact that he or she is an integral part of ensuring that the American people continue to enjoy healthy and safe food.