Pigs, Chickens & Cows: Farm Animal Vet Techs
Published on September 27, 2019 by arothstein
Interested in becoming a vet tech? Do you love farm animals? The field of veterinary medicine is growing at a faster rate than many other occupations. New advances in technology, innovative medical treatments, and more effective medications are primarily responsible for the amount that pet parents are spending on care for their pets. Vet techs may work in small or large animal practices, and care for cats, dogs, exotic pets, or farm animals.
A vet tech may specialize and work in specialty or emergency clinics, animal shelters, research facilities, at teaching colleges or universities, or in rehabilitation or rescue facilities.
As a licensed vet tech your duties may include:
- Assist with physical examinations, medical procedures, or surgery
- Administer medications and vaccines
- Record pulse, respiration, and temperature
- Record an animal’s medical history
- Collect samples and process lab tests
- Provide treatment and dress wounds
- Prepare animals and surgical instruments for surgery
- Sterilize surgical and lab equipment
Specialty Fields for Vet Techs
While a lot of vet techs work in small animal practices or emergency clinics, there are a variety of options to pursue if you want a career caring for animals. Large animal practice veterinarians are sometimes known as equine or farm animal vets. The veterinarians who specialize in these fields need vet techs with the skills to assist in the specialty care these farm animals need.
Differences Between Private Practice Vet Techs vs Farm Animal Vet Techs
Private practice vet techs train to care for cats, dogs, other small pets, and occasionally exotic pets. The primary duty of the vet tech is to focus on technical issues, leaving the veterinarians to care for animals, do surgical procedures, and handle critical care.
By contrast, farm animal or farm vet techs care for horses, cattle, chickens, sheep, and pigs. Training to be a farm animal vet tech is an excellent choice for anyone who wants to specialize. Another of the pros of becoming a vet tech is the high job growth rate, which is at 20 percent and expected to continue through 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Duties of a Farm Animal Vet Tech
A career as a large animal, equine, or farm vet tech offers a much different experience than working in a private practice caring for small animals. Veterinary technicians who pursue a career as a farm animal vet tech may work in a variety of settings rather than an animal hospital or emergency clinic and enjoy the challenges of caring for large animals.
Working Outdoors With Animals
Farm animal vet techs are often employed at the clinic or agriculture department of a university that specializes in caring for horses, pigs and other large animals. Working in these settings usually means that they must spend time traveling to the animal’s location, which is an excellent option for a farm animal vet tech who loves spending time outdoors. Visits to ranches or farms require more travel time because of the distance that’s usually involved.
New Challenges Every Day
A vet tech who cares for farm animals faces different challenges each day, and they must be prepared. Caring for large animals means being ready to respond to emergencies at a moment’s notice, often in the middle of the night. An urgent call may mean they’ll have to assist with a cow or horse giving birth.
Some of the duties of a farm animal vet tech include:
- Restrain animals during examinations
- Assist with surgical procedures
- Insert catheters
- Administer medications or vaccines
- Dress wounds
- Assist with post-surgical care
- Clean hooves
- Wrap legs or tails to aid in healing
Proper Care of Pigs
Whether pigs are being raised on a farm or as pets, their health and well-being should be the priority of any owner. Pigs should be given comfortable living quarter, proper nutrition, and excellent health care. Pigs are sensitive to changing weather conditions, especially cold and heat.
Special Considerations for Pigs
Since pigs don’t have sweat glands, they can’t regulate their body temperature, so protection is a must during the hot weather. Pigs need a place sheltered from the sun to keep cool during the summer and should have a pool deep enough for them so they can cool off. The depth of the water should be enough for the pig to submerge in. Pigs need a barn or other shelter to keep them warm during the winter. Bedding should be hay or straw and should be at least 16 inches in height for them to crawl into.
Pig Spay and Neuter Procedures
The owner who is keeping pigs as pets should be advised by a veterinarian to have them spayed or neutered. Male pigs can become fertile at about five weeks old, so it’s advisable to have them neutered at that age. Females aren’t able to have litters until about four months old and should be spayed. Female pigs run a high risk for developing certain types of cancer at about ten months so spaying can prolong their lives.
A high-quality hog feed for pigs will provide them with proper nutrition and help to keep them healthy. Pasture feeding is also a good option for pigs. Clean water is essential, and the best way to provide water for pigs is an automatic waterer which is difficult to overturn or get dirty.
Pig Habitat Considerations
New piglets need to be at a temperature of about 95 degrees for the first week. The temperature can gradually reduce about 5 degrees each week until they’re weaned. If piglets are raised in a pasture, they should get only the most nutritious type of food because their digestive systems aren’t fully developed. If pigs are being housed in a barn, they can be hosed down in the warm weather after wallowing in water. Regular wellness visits and vaccinations by a veterinarian are a must.
Proper Care of Chickens
Caring for a flock of chickens isn’t difficult as long as you care for their basic needs. Chickens need access to plenty of clean water and nutritious feed. It’s essential to make sure the water supply is always fresh because chickens won’t drink water that’s soiled and can get dehydrated very quickly.
Egg Laying and Care
When hens first begin laying eggs, the shells might be brittle and the eggs may be small; which is normal. Eggs should be collected from the nests each day, so hens won’t sit on them. Daily egg collection will discourage predators from invading chicken coops as well. A poultry barn or chicken tractor are two of the most popular types of housing for chickens.
Chickens are easy to care for once they reach adulthood, but chicks have a high mortality rate. To raise chicks that are healthy, the supplies needed include a brooder and heat lamp, waterers, bedding, feeders, and chick feed. A farm animal vet tech can explain about caring for baby chicks, including pasting and how to take care of it, so chicks stay healthy.
Chickens should eat a crumble or pellet diet and can eat as much as they wish. Baby chicks need a starter diet which provides them with more protein than adult chickens. Chicks should eat the starter diet until at least the age of 20 weeks. Laying hens need more vitamins, calcium, and protein. If the eggs they’re laying have thin shells, their diet may be supplemented with crushed oyster shell. Roosters and hens that aren’t laying eggs should eat a regular maintenance diet.
Proper Care of Cows
Dairy cows require more care than beef cows since they have to be milked. If cows are eating feed, it should be high in protein, calcium, and phosphorus to keep them healthy and make sure they produce milk. If cows are on pasture, food must be in abundant supply and farmers should switch paddocks frequently if they’re on a rotational feeding schedule.
Vaccinations and Precautions for Cows
Dairy cows should be de-wormed, de-liced, and vaccinated against disease, as cows are prone to mastitis and other ailments. If the farm’s cows show any sign of injury or illness, the farm animal vet should be called immediately. Stalls should always have fresh, clean bedding. Dirty bedding can cause disease in a herd.
The most common type of barn for dairy cows is one in which the cows have room to lie down with sufficient ventilation. Another common type of shelter for cattle is the three-sided cattle shed that will accommodate small herds when the weather is poor.
Considerations for Milking a Cow
Supplies used for milking should always be clean to prevent disease with the herd and prevent milk contamination from E. coli, salmonella, or other bacteria. Dairy cows have to be milked twice a day or every 12 hours.
Skills Needed to be a Farm Animal Vet Tech
The most important skill for a farm animal vet tech is to be an animal lover. When caring for any animal, the needs of the animal must always come first. The most effective treatment for the well-being of the animal should always be the first consideration.
A vet tech who cares for farm animals must be strong emotionally. A vet tech may have to treat animals that are severely injured or sick. It’s the responsibility of the vet tech to keep their emotions in check and do what’s best for the animal they’re treating.
Caring for a large farm animal requires a lot of emotional stamina and patience. When examining a scared animal, they’re unlikely to cooperate. It’s vital that the farm animal is appropriately examined even if it requires several attempts. Physical strength is a necessity for a farm animal vet tech who cares for large animals, especially when they must be restrained during a physical examination.
Pet and farm animal owners, farmers, and ranchers all look to the medical team caring for their farm animals, so good communication is a must. It’s vital to listen to what the owner is saying and explain the problem and treatment options in a clear, concise manner. Providing emotional support to owners is an essential asset for a farm animal vet tech.
Want to Learn More?
Did learning about pigs, chickens and cows from a farm animal vet tech’s perspective 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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