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ONE OF THE MOST INTERESTING careers today is livestock breeding. Breeders assist with reproduction for such animals as cattle, pigs, sheep and goats. They strive to improve favorable characteristics of these animals (such as higher milk production) by selectively breeding livestock to produce offspring with more desirable traits. Breeders may work on a family-owned ranch, at a large agribusiness facility, or as a self-employed consultant helping farms of all sizes with their breeding programs.
Livestock breeders work in all 50 states, in rural areas, and in or near cities of all sizes. Since agriculture is a highly localized profession – different types of animals are highly dependent on local weather conditions, for example – opportunities are everywhere.
Livestock breeding is a part of the animal science industry. Animal husbandry or animal science refers to breeding livestock and taking care of them from conception throughout adulthood. An animal breeder is someone who works with various types of animals to produce offspring with certain traits (such as faster speed in racehorses). The more specific role of "livestock breeder" refers to someone who breeds agricultural animals (as opposed to exotic animals or household pets like cats and dogs). Breeders are trained in special techniques such as artificial insemination and embryo transference that supplement the natural reproduction of animals.
While you can start a career as a breeder with only a high school diploma and some experience in the field, most positions require at least a two-year associate or four-year undergraduate degree. A graduate degree is often required for the top openings and upper management positions. Breeders can also expect continuing training to stay current with the latest breakthroughs in the field.
The number of livestock breeding jobs is limited and little growth is expected for the foreseeable future. However, demand is expected to remain steady as current breeders retire and new positions open up in agribusiness. Breeding professionals are also needed to help farmers produce healthy livestock with desirable characteristics on a cost-effective basis.
Would livestock breeding be a good fit for you? Having an affinity for animals is paramount, as breeders must have a genuine concern for the health and welfare of the stock in their care. Mathematical and scientific skills are required, as breeding calls for thorough knowledge of genetics and animal biology, plus statistical monitoring of results and trends. An analytical mind and attention to details are needed to select the best animals for breeding and predict the results. Technical training and aptitude are required. Personal traits are also important for success. Do you like helping others – farmers and ranchers, as well as animals? Do you communicate well speaking and in writing? Can you keep pace with newly-discovered information, innovative techniques and regulatory updates? Are you proficient with computers?
If you have good analytical, interpersonal, and technical skills, you can enjoy a long and fulfilling career as a livestock breeder. You will work long hours during breeding seasons, laboring outdoors in all types of weather as you help deliver baby animals and care for adults. However, the satisfaction of caring for animals, solving problems, and helping ranchers increase their profitability makes this a most satisfying career for many breeders.