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How to Find and Establish a Farm or Large Animal Veterinarian or Vet

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Establishing care with a farm veterinarian can be key to getting your small farm started, if you plan to keep and raise larger livestock: goats, sheep, cows, and so forth. (You will be hard-pressed to find a vet that provides care for chickens and turkeys, although there are some!)

You might be wondering how to go about finding a vet that can handle the animals you plan to have, or already have, on your farm. I'd like to share some simple tips and strategies for finding a good local farm vet and establishing a relationship with him or her.

What Does a Farm Vet Do?

The vast majority of veterinarians treat small animals - pets. But in rural areas, you will find large animal veterinarians - that is what "farm vets" are properly called. Large animal vets often make house calls, since you're not exactly going to load up a sick cow and bring it to the vet's office. They often have a specialized truck customized with medical equipment for livestock.

Large animal vets may conduct health exams, give vaccinations, draw blood, clean and suture wounds, prescribe medication, and perform surgery. They may also perform artificial insemination, help with difficult livestock birth situations, take ultrasounds or X-rays, and monitor reproductive health.

Some farm vets treat all manner of livestock: horses, cows, pigs, sheep. Others specialize; you might find that a particular vet only treats horses, for example.

Finally, some large animal vets also see small animals and pets, so don't rule out a vet that seems to only see small animals. Give a call and find out if they will also help with livestock.

Get a Personal Recommendation

Asking your farmer neighbors is a great way to get a personal recommendation for a vet. And if you don't have farmer friends yet, what vet do your neighbors use for their pet horse? Another option would be to call small-animal vets in the area and ask who they recommend for large animals and livestock.

Talk to Your Cooperative Extension Office

A phone call to your cooperative extension office might just be the shortcut to finding a farm vet in your area. Your county cooperative extension office is meant to provide information about farming to individuals.

Search the Web

The internet can prove fruitful ground for searching out a veterinarian. Homesteading forums can connect you with people in your area who are doing similar things, and they may already know of a farm vet locally.

If you can't find a farm vet who will come to where you are, you can use the internet to gather information about the animals you raise on your farm, and to help you if you end up with a sick animal. There are also online suppliers of veterinary meds. You may be able to work with a vet by phone or internet to help diagnose and treat your animal. While not ideal, it's certainly better than nothing.

Get to Know Your Vet

Establishing a relationship with a farm vet may seem daunting, especially if you haven't acquired any farm animals yet. So how do you proceed? I would just pick up the phone and call, and ask for a consultation visit to get to know the vet. Write down any questions you have ahead of time, and make sure you feel comfortable with your new vet and have a good rapport with him or her.

Take the time to find out their office hours and how they handle emergency visits - what's the cost, and what constitutes an emergency visit? Are there certain times or days when they make farm visits? Can you pick up vaccinations, say, and administer them yourself, or does the vet want to administer all medications? These are the types of questions you may ask your new farm vet.

It's great to do all this before you need your farm vet. This way, when you do have a sick animal, you'll feel confident and secure in contacting your vet for care.

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