So You Want to be an Agricultural Veterinarian – Guest Post

This guest feature was written by Jenny Lewiston.

Do you love All Creatures Great and Small? Is it your dream to heal adorable cows, all of whom have huge, cartoon-like brown eyes? Then you might be considering a career as an agricultural veterinarian. But before you start buying novelty-sized “Get Well Soon” cards, or order any cow-print stethoscopes, there are a few questions to ask yourself concerning your chosen profession.

  • Do You Love School?

Though a love of animals will get you far in the world of veterinary medicine, you still need to attend college—for about eight years. This is not counting internships and specialization training after graduation. Even after passing the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam, you still need to constantly educate yourself to stay current with the latest veterinary breakthroughs. If you want to work with animals, but not invest as much time into your degree, think about a career as a veterinarian technician. 

  • Are You Strong Enough?

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Right? Well, if a horse is lying down in the mud, too sick to stand, then you can’t actually lead that horse anywhere. As an agricultural veterinarian, it is your job to help those poor, yet gigantic, souls who cannot help themselves. This takes great strength, both emotional, and physical, and the ability to stay calm during life-threatening situations. Though hamsters and cows each have their own special and complicated physiology, you don’t usually have to worry about a hamster kicking you in the head while you take his temperature.

  • Do You Love To Drive?

Sometimes people take their large animals to see a specialist, but more often the veterinarian comes to them. Since cows do not generally wait for you to have a cup of morning coffee before going into labor, or getting a hoof stuck in a barbed-wire fence, expect the phone to ring all hours of the night. And farm animals are usually, you guessed it, in very rural areas. So unless you already know each location like the back of you coffee mug, make sure you have a good map, or a reliable GPS, and some lively music for the hours you will spend on the road.

  • Are You a Good Boyscout (Always Prepared)?

Your vehicle is not only a means of travel: it must carry everything you will need to treat animals. Some examples are surgical equipment, medicine, x-ray machines, and stethoscopes (cow-print or otherwise). The conditions are not often sterile, and the lighting is generally bad. Think M*A*S*H* instead of ER. The cow or horse you treat might be covered in mud, or even lying in its own filth. From the miracle of birth to stitching up gashes, you need to feel confident that your office on wheels will carry you through any situation.

  • Do You Think All Animals Are Pets?

While it is easy to be swayed by a cow’s big eyes and floppy ears into imagining him as some sort of overgrown dog, it is important to realize that these animals are not often pets. Not only is it your job to keep a single cow healthy, but there is the farmer’s business to remember. For example, sanitation control between farms is crucial for preventing the spread of diseases among huge groups of livestock. So, even as you remember Ferdinand and Clarabelle, think of milk and hamburgers.

  • Do You Want to Run Your Own Business?

Most agricultural veterinarians work by themselves or with a small group of partners. Either way, you will basically be running your own business. So, while you should be calm and collected with those four-legged patients, you must be equally responsible regarding payments, expenses and advertising. Learn to be your own boss, and you will have more time to be a great veterinarian.

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