This industry consists of establishments of licensed practitioners primarily engaged in the practice of veterinary medicine, dentistry, or surgery for cattle, hogs, sheep, goats, and poultry. Similar establishments primarily engaged in veterinary medicine for all other animals are classified in SIC 0742: Veterinary Services for Animal Specialties.
Roughly half of the food Americans eat is derived from animals (in the form of meat and dairy products). Thus, the focus of this industry is largely aimed at maintaining adequate and safe food supplies for humans through the treatment of livestock injuries and diseases. Because disease accounts for billions of dollars in lost revenue for the livestock industry—around $3 billion in the 1990s and 2000s—veterinary establishments specializing in preventive medicine for larger animals (cattle, sheep, and swine) are integral to increasing livestock productivity and profitability.
Veterinarians held about 61,000 jobs in 2004. Approximately 20 percent of veterinarians were self-employed in a solo or group practice, and about 25 percent of all veterinarians worked in mixed animal practices, where they attended to pigs, goats, sheep, and some nondomestic animals in addition to companion animals. A small number of private-practice veterinarians worked exclusively with large animals, mostly horses or cows; some also cared for various kinds of food animals. The U.S. government employed 1,200 veterinarians, largely in the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA), Health and Human Services, and, increasingly, Homeland Security. State and local governments, colleges of veterinary medicine, medical schools, research laboratories, animal food companies, and pharmaceutical companies also employed veterinarians.
In contrast to the rest of the veterinary industry, where services are most often rendered in a clinic or hospital setting, most veterinary services for livestock are performed on-site—that is, in a barn, out in the field, or on a ranch. The average starting salary for a livestock practitioner treating predominantly large animals was approximately $48,529 in 2005, while veterinarians treating large animals exclusively earned just over $50,000. The average annual salary for veterinarians in the federal government in non-supervisory, supervisory, and managerial positions was $78,769 in 2005.
The USDA provides veterinary...