Great Careers Working with Livestock

Judging of Suffolk sheep at the Great Yorkshire Show
Kim Kirby/LOOP IMAGES / Getty Images

There are many great career options that involve working with livestock species. Here are eight great options for those interested in becoming a part of the livestock industry:

1. Livestock Appraiser

Livestock appraisers evaluate animals that are to be sold or insured, determining their market value and writing a comprehensive report that justifies their valuation. There are several professional certification options for livestock appraisers.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a median salary of $48,500 per year for those working in this role.

2. Agricultural Extension Agent

Agricultural extension agents visit farmers, ranchers, and youth groups to educate them about important developments in the livestock industry. Agents must be very familiar with the types of agriculture and production that take place in their designated territory. Entry level positions require a Bachelor’s of Science degree, and graduate level coursework is preferred. According to the USDA, agents with a Bachelor’s degree earned an average of $44,293 in 2010. Agents with a Master’s degree earned $57,889 in 2010.

3. Livestock Judge

Livestock judges evaluate and rank livestock animals that have been entered in competitions. They base their opinion on the conformation and quality of each animal, and they publicly share their reasons at the conclusion of each class.

Judges must have expert level knowledge of the breeds that they evaluate. It is common for judges to have a full-time career (such as being a livestock breeder) since judging is usually a part time opportunity and only pays a few hundred dollars per day plus travel expenses.

4. Meat Inspector

Meat inspectors ensure that meat products comply with strict government standards for safety and quality.

In addition to visual examinations of animals and carcasses, inspectors also collect tissue samples for further evaluation. They also conduct inspections of the facility to ensure that products are accurately labeled and that the facility is properly sanitized. Inspectors usually must have a two-year degree at minimum. The BLS includes meat inspectors in the category of agricultural inspectors; the mean annual wage in this category was $42,460 per year in 2012.

5. Artificial Insemination Technician

Artificial insemination technicians monitor the heat cycles of livestock animals and inseminate them at the optimum time for conception. Their goal is to impregnate the animal on a single service. The majority of A.I. technicians work in the dairy or swine industries. Salary can vary widely based on the technician’s educational background and experience in the field.

6. Livestock Auctioneer

Livestock auctioneers sell animals at public auction, often using a chanting style of speaking to encourage bidders to continue to raise their offers. Auctioneers also do a great deal of administrative work before the sale such as assigning lot numbers, obtaining health records, and tagging animals for identification.

Most aspiring auctioneers either attend auctioneering school or complete an apprenticeship. Licensing is required in some states. According to SalaryExpert.com, salary for livestock auctioneers in major cities ranged from $45,000 to $75,000 in 2013.

7. Breeder

Breeders may choose to specialize in beef production, dairy production, swine production, poultry production, egg production, or sheep production. Breeders must be experts in animal husbandry and have knowledge of the reproductive technologies used in their industry. Salary varies widely based on the size of the operation, the type of animals produced, and current market prices.

8. Animal Geneticist

Animal geneticists work to improve the heritability of highly desirable traits in livestock species (such as increased milk production in dairy cattle or higher carcass weight in beef cattle).

They may also be involved in conducting population studies and mapping genomes. Many geneticists working in the livestock industry focus on cattle or poultry. They usually pursue graduate degrees, though a Bachelor of Science degree may be acceptable for entry level positions. The BLS includes geneticists in the broader category of biological scientists, which reported a median annual salary of $62,220 in 2010.