Livestock veterinarians are practitioners that specialize in the care and management of livestock species such as cattle, chickens, pigs, sheep, goats, and horses. Some will specialize in one type of livestock like cattle. These vets often have mobile practices and will make farm visits. They often work long hours, and are generally on-call for the majority of the time with emergencies. These veterinarians may also work in government centres such as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
- Diagnose signs and symptoms of animals with an unknown illness or injury and treat as well as recommend treatments to owners accordingly.
- Converse with owners about animal care and husbandry and answer any questions, comments or complaints they may have. about their animals and how to best care for them, as well as recommend treatments, nutrition, or handling to any particular problem animal.
- Perform vaccinations and deworming for herds or flocks of any size.
- Administer wound care and management (e.g. suturing).
- Screen newly purchased animals for contagious or zoonotic bovine diseases such as Bovine Viral Diarrhea, Trichomoniasis, Foot and Mouth Disease, and others, which include taking blood and fecal samples and submitting samples to a lab.
- Inspect hot carcasses (freshly killed and gutted livestock) or milk for diseases or abnormalities, such as for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy or Mastitis, respectively.
- Use ultrasound and x-ray for checking pregnancy, abnormal growths that may be cancerous, or skeletal damage.
- Perform rectal palpations on livestock for pregnancy-checking, pelvic size for determining retainment of replacement heifers and abnormal reproductive tract problems in cows and bulls.
- Prescribe medications including vaccinations, antibiotics/antimicrobials, hormone implants, hormone injections (usually for estrus synchronizing, retained placentas, abortion in heifers too young to be pregnant, and help with milk-let down), vitamin injections, etc.
- Maintain Herd Health Protocols with various producers in helping with managing regular vaccinations and vitamin injections in various classes of cattle.
- Perform surgical procedures (e.g. Caesarean sections, navel hernias, castrations, dehorning, prolapses).
- Assist with difficult births which may include performing C-sections.
- Conduct male breeding soundness exams and semen testing before males are put out for breeding season–usually bulls, but also done with rams (sheep), stallions (horses), bucks (goats), and boars (pigs)–and inspect semen quality under a microscope to determine fertility and fecundity of breeding male. Assessment on body condition and health of the male reproductive organs are also performed, including scrotal circumference measurements and rectal palpation of seminal glands.
- Carry out euthanasia for animals that are non-ambulatory and are unable to be treated.
- Perform necropsies on animals euthanized or that died of unknown causes as a means to find out what may have caused the animal to perish.
Skills and Requirements
- Ability to work under pressure in a stressful environment with both speed and skill.
- Excellent interpersonal and written communication skills.
- Ability to self-manage and have good leadership qualities for managing staff and working with clients.
- Willing to work long hours well past day-shift in reacting to emergency calls in attending to clients and their animals as soon as possible.
- Excellent knowledge in animal husbandry, physiology and ethology as a means to safely handle animals and perform operative procedures as safely and efficiently as possible.
Education and Qualifications
Must complete at least two years of undergraduate studies followed by a four-year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program. Post secondary schools throughout Alberta offer university transfer programs that allow students to apply up to two years of study toward university bachelor’s degree programs.
The Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) at the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Calgary, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM) each accepts 20 Alberta students every year as part of an interprovincial quota system agreement.
Under Alberta’s Veterinary Profession Act and Veterinary Profession General Rules, only registered veterinary members of the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association (ABVMA) may practice as Veterinarians.
Registration requires successful completion of:
- Complete 4-year DVM program
- Pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE)
- Require a Certificate of Qualification from the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA).
Graduates from non-accredited universities must complete a Basic Clinical Skills Exam, Clinical Competency Exam and the NAVLE.
Examples of accredited veterinary schools in Canada:
- University of Calgary, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
- University of Saskatchewan, Western College of Veterinary Medicine
- University of Guelph, Ontario Veterinary College
- Université de Montréal, Faculté de médecine vétérinaire
- University of Prince Edward Island, Atlantic Veterinary College
Wages and Salary
Average hours worked: 39.4 hours per week (generally more)
Average wage: $49.21 per hour
Average salary (Alberta): $99,268.00 per annum
Veterinary Profession Act. http://www.qp.alberta.ca/documents/acts/V02.pdf
Veterinary Profession General Rule. http://www.qp.alberta.ca/documents/regs/1986_044.pdf
Alberta Veterinary Medical Association. http://www.abvma.ca/
Canadian Veterinary Medical Association. http://www.canadianveterinarians.net/