For livestock owners with cattle, sheep, goats or chickens, a large-animal or food-animal veterinarian can be hard to find. In many areas of the United States, fewer and fewer livestock veterinarians are finding themselves covering larger and larger territories.
Those who are new to livestock ownership should look to find and build a relationship with a livestock vet before an animal actually gets sick. Here are a few tips on finding the best veterinarian for your animals.
It's better to have established a relationship with a livestock veterinarian before an emergency occurs, says David Baber, Southern States Livestock Specialist for southeast Virginia.
"Often, we are dealing with remedies that may involve the use of medication (or other livestock health supplies); once a veterinarian knows a farm, he or she can help make an accurate diagnosis for a sick animal, recommend the proper medication, and keep the farmer from ordering the wrong product or giving the wrong dose."
Dr. Rodney Cole, a livestock veterinarian based in central & southeast Virginia says that in many areas, especially in areas without many large farms, the nearest veterinarian specializing in livestock may be quite a distance away. In addition, those veterinarians may themselves cover a large part of a state or region. "That's why establishing a relationship in advance is so important," he says. "If your veterinarian is a two-hour drive away when an animal gets sick, he or she may still be able to advise you over the phone."
"If you are just starting to raise a few goats, for example, find a veterinarian in advance," Cole adds. "Don't wait for an emergency; establishing a relationship will also go a long way if you later have to ask a veterinarian to come out to your place to look at a sick animal in the middle of the night."
If you are new to an area or just learning how to raise livestock, looking to your community is the best place to start a search. The local Cooperative Extension office and the store where you buy livestock feed and other livestock supplies should have recommendations for veterinarians that specialize in livestock and can make on-farm visits.
Try calling your county's Cooperative Extension office. Many offices will have an Extension Agent that specializes in livestock, and most offices should have a list of area veterinarians.
Southern States also has team of experts available throughout its territory to assist with livestock questions. The cooperative has certified more than 150 employees as Feed Master® feed and animal nutrition specialists who are trained to provide technical expertise to farmers and homeowners alike.
"In my area, for example, I work with dairy and beef cattle veterinarians, so I have some contacts," Baber says. "Farmers could also contact a Southern States Feed Sales and Technical Representative in their area to point them in the right direction. Or, check with anyone at the Southern States store in your area; they work in the community and would know livestock vets who are available."
For any questions about your livestock, horses or pastures, contact your local Southern States by using our Store Locator.
Another great way to find the best practitioner for your farm: simply ask a neighbor. Check with other farmers and livestock owners in the area to see who they would recommend. "Word of mouth can be one of the best ways to find a vet," says Baber.
Finally, livestock owners who live near a state college or university could also check with the veterinary school to see if they have a clinic or animal hospital that provides routine or emergency care. Some veterinarians or specialists from these organizations will make on-farm care visits within a limited distance of the clinic.
As you talk to livestock veterinarians to find the practice that will best suit your farm's needs, you'll also want to find out the following: