Animal Husbandry: A Veterinary Technician’s Guide

Published on February 13, 2019 by

Veterinary technician in animal husbandry tending to livestockAnimal husbandry describes anyone involved in the care of livestock used for breeding, producing products like wool, research, or as domestic pets.

As a veterinary technician that works with livestock, you’ll plan and supervise breeding of livestock, devise feeding plans for a variety of animals that provide them with excellent nutrition. You may be responsible for preparing animals for slaughter or care for newborn animals.

Duties in Animal Husbandry

Here are some of the duties you may have if you choose a career in animal husbandry:

Veterinary Technician Courses

Animal anatomy and physiology is one of the foundation courses for the veterinary technician who wants to specialize in animal husbandry. Veterinary technicians learn how injuries and diseases can affect normal function and what treatments will alleviate pain and enhance healing. Some of the relevant topics that are necessary for the animal husbandry specialist are:

Animal Husbandry and Breeding

Breeding is a significant part of animal husbandry. Breeding techniques have evolved and become more sophisticated. They are an area in which a veterinary technician may be required to assist the veterinarian. Techniques have improved to breed animals with more desirable characteristics that include, calm temperament, canine hunting and tracking skills, and higher milk yield in cattle.

The concept was to identify positive traits in animals and breed them with animals that display similar characteristics. Advances in genetics have greatly improved and methods like transferring embryos to surrogate mothers and artificial insemination are two of the most significant advances in breeding livestock and domestic animals.

Animal Husbandry & Health

In an animal husbandry practice, the health of the animals is the top priority. The well-being of the animals and excellent husbandry and management are essential. The veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and assistants must work together as a team to ensure that the animals in their care are healthy and well cared for.

One of the essential components of an animal husbandry practice is maintaining accurate records of the animals in your care. If files aren’t accurate, it’s more difficult to diagnose illness or injuries. All the information in each animal’s record should be carefully analyzed, collected, summarized, and available to veterinarians as needed.

Identifying Diseases

Among the problems that a veterinary technician in animal husbandry may identify are a variety of diseases that are, bacterial, metabolic, parasitic and viral. Some of the disease that veterinarians and veterinary technicians in animal husbandry practice must treat. Bacterial diseases may include anthrax, brucellosis, pneumonia, mastitis, pinkeye, and tetanus. Metabolic conditions that may affect livestock are allergies, bloat, acidosis, and pregnancy toxemia. Parasitic diseases may be caused by internal, external, or blood parasites, or protozoa. Viral diseases that may be treated in an Animal Husbandry practice are CAE, Contagious Ecthyma, Goat Pox, or Foot and Mouth Disease.

Administer Medications

Veterinary technicians who work in animal husbandry must prepare and administer medications for these diseases according to the veterinarian’s instructions. One of the problems that the veterinary technician may have to identify is animals that may be sick and need to be isolated to prevent the spread of disease. Veterinary technicians that work with large animals like cattle and horses must have enough strength and agility to stay in control of the animals that may be ill and get them to an isolated place where disease won’t be spread.

Skills That Will Help A Vet Tech Work with Livestock

Although veterinary technicians work under the supervision of a veterinarian, they must possess a variety of skills since they assist the veterinarian with the diagnosis and treatment of large and small animals. The veterinary technician must have specialized training and licensed in the state in which they work. Here are some of the most significant skills of a veterinary technician.

Personal Skills

A veterinary technician must be detail-oriented, observant, and focused. Strong communication skills are a must, and they must make fast decisions. The most important attribute is a love for animals.

Organizational and Management Skills  

A veterinary technician is responsible for collecting all data and recording and organizing patient records. The veterinary technician must keep track of all lab reports, and relevant information about all the animals in their care. Management and organizational skills require the veterinary technician to have skills in filing hard copies and digital files. The responsibilities of the veterinary technician may include handling transactions, keeping track of inventory, scheduling client’s appointments, and interacting with pet owners.

Lab Skills

Strong science and math skills are a necessity for the veterinary technician, especially in the lab. Veterinary technicians who work in the lab must know how to perform diagnostic tests like urinalysis and blood counts. The veterinary technician must know how to take and develop x-rays. A lot of lab work involves calculating drugs and analyzing tests, and veterinary technicians must be accurate in their calculations and recording data.

Nursing Skills

A lot of veterinary technicians work is hands-on, so they must be proficient in skills that any nurse has. Veterinary technicians must get surgical instruments ready and prep animals for surgery. A veterinary technician is responsible for treating animals and administering vaccines and medications. Pharmacology is a vital aspect of the work that veterinary technicians do, so they will have to know how to recognize, prepare, measure, and administer drugs to animals.

Ways to Keep Livestock Healthy

All species of livestock need high-quality, nutritious feed to stay healthy. Nutritional requirements differ depending on the species and can vary from one animal to another. For example, working horses require a different feed from horses who aren’t ridden and get a lot of exercise each day.

The facilities in which livestock are housed should always be clean, warm, and well-ventilated. Barns should be stocked with plenty of straw during the winter months. Producers of livestock should always choose vaccines for their animals that are top-quality and best suit their needs.

What to Feed Livestock and Good Nutrition

When choosing the proper feed for livestock, the most critical factor is the overall composition of the feed. Select feed for the livestock that contains all the nutrients needed to keep them healthy. Anyone who works in animal husbandry wants to get optimum performance from their animals, so nutrient-rich food is essential. These are the nutrients livestock need to keep them healthy:

Things to consider when feeding livestock are the climate, how healthy the animals are, the type of feed they’re consuming, their physiological condition, and having adequate water available at all times. Here’s what to feed livestock:


The best feed for pigs is pig pellets. They also like barley, grains, and wheat with a protein supplement. If you feed your pigs vegetables or fruits, feed a selection of these foods because pigs like a diet that’s varied.


Forage, namely hay, silage, or pasture feeding is the most natural feed for cattle. They like fescue grass which is good nutritional source because it grows leaves during the coldest months.


Alfalfa and hay are the primary sources of nourishment for goats. Grass hay is nutritious for goats because it contains plenty of protein to give them energy.


Whole seeds are the best food for chickens. They especially like black sunflower oil, wheat, flax, oats, and safflower.

Did learning about animal husbandry and veterinary technology interest you? Ready to start a program to become a veterinary technician? With an associate degree in veterinary technology, you’ll gain the knowledge and skills you need to start an entry-level career as a veterinary technician. Broadview University has been part of the community for more than 40 years, so we’ve developed connections that can help move your career forward. After completing our accredited degree program, you’ll be eligible to sit for the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). Passing the VTNE allows you to become a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT), a designation that will give you a competitive advantage when you enter the job market.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a veterinary technician and working in veterinary technology.

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