Small Animal Breeder
Small Animal Breeder
Education and Training: Varies—see profile
Salary: Varies—see profile
Employment Outlook: Varies—see profile
Definition and Nature of the Work
Small animal breeders raise and market fur-bearing animals and animals used in laboratory experiments. Fur farmers raise animals such as minks, chinchillas, foxes, rabbits, and squirrels. Fur-bearing animals are bred for the quality of their pelts, or skin. Breeders usually work in rural sections of the country where the animals can be raised in outdoor cages. Fur farmers may be self-employed. Some manage fur farms on behalf of farm owners. Laboratory animal breeders raise animals used in medical or research laboratories. These animals include mice, rats, guinea pigs, cats, chickens, monkeys, and dogs. Laboratory animal breeders are generally self-employed. Laboratory animal care technicians work for companies that breed laboratory animals for sale. They also work for drug companies, universities, hospitals, and medical laboratories where they breed and care for animals involved in experiments. Because laboratory animals may be bred indoors, breeders and technicians work in all sections of the country.
Fur-bearing animals are hard to raise commercially. Fur farmers must give each animal a separate cage so that the animals do not fight and damage their fur. In addition, the animals must be fed and given water each day. Some fur farmers use automatic sprinkler systems that provide water. Others water their animals by hand. Some animals are fed from small electric carts that pump feed into their cages. Most farmers use some kind of labor-saving equipment to keep their animals' cages clean. Often this equipment includes a conveyor system.
Success or failure in fur farming often depends on how well farmers can get their animals to reproduce. First, farmers select pairs of healthy animals that have good pelts. Then they put these pairs in cages where the conditions are right for breeding. When babies are born, farmers must make sure that they are healthy and that they receive cages of their own as soon as they can be taken from their mothers.
When the pelts are in prime condition, farmers kill and skin the animals. Usually the animals are killed by injection or electrocution. After the pelts are removed and cleaned, farmers sell them—often through fur farmers' cooperatives.
Laboratory animals are used in scientific experiments, medical laboratories, and tests of animal behavior. A sick or underfed animal may ruin an experiment and waste scientists' time. Laboratory animal breeders are usually not concerned with the quality of animals' fur. They may, however, breed animals to develop other traits. For example, breeders may try to raise rats that are good at running through mazes or quick to learn how to push buttons.
Education and Training Requirements
There are no specific education requirements for becoming a fur farmer. Some fur farmers start as laborers on fur farms and learn their skills on the job. However, valuable courses can be taken in technical schools and in two- and four-year colleges. Courses in animal husbandry, biology, zoology, nutrition, animal hygiene, chemistry, and genetics are useful. The study of bookkeeping, marketing, and business is also helpful.
There are no education requirements for laboratory animal breeders who are in business for themselves. However, a course of study such as that outlined above is good preparation. Employees of breeding companies and research organizations may be trained on the job. Candidates can prepare by taking a two-year course in animal care at a college or technical school.
Technicians may need to be certified in order to advance. Certification is available from the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS). There are three levels of certification: assistant laboratory animal technician, laboratory animal technician, and laboratory animal technologist. Each level of certification has age, education, experience, and examination requirements. If candidates do not have formal training, they can prepare for certification by taking a course sponsored by the AALAS.
Getting the Job
Becoming a fur farmer or laboratory animal breeder might entail setting up one's own business. To be successful, a great deal of money, or the ability to borrow money, will be necessary. Good business sense is also necessary. Prospective small animal breeders can also go into partnership with an established breeder.
Another way to get into the business is to go to work for a fur farmer or laboratory animal breeder. If candidates are attending a technical school or college for agricultural courses or for training in laboratory animal care technology, the placement office or instructors may be able to help find a job. Candidates can also apply directly to farms and breeding laboratories for which they would like to work.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
A few fur farmers acquire large herds and become wealthy. However, the profit margin in fur farming is small and uncertain. It takes a long time to develop a profitable business. Also, because imported furs are less expensive than American furs, the long-range outlook for fur farmers in this country is not good.
Although the fur-farming outlook is down, there is a steady market for laboratory animals. The success of the laboratory animal breeder depends largely on the size and health of the herd or stock. Technicians who work for breeders may become breeding managers.
The outlook for laboratory animal breeders is generally favorable. There will be a steady demand for laboratory animals to be used in increasing numbers of medical tests and for behavioral and scientific research.
Self-employed small animal breeders work long hours every day of the week. A few who own large operations may work regular hours and have employees care for the animals at other times. Technicians and other employees generally work forty hours a week, including some nights and weekends. Most people who work with animals must do some heavy lifting and are exposed to unpleasant odors.
Where to Go for More Information
American Association for Laboratory Animal Science
9190 Crestwyn Hills Dr.
Memphis, TN 38125-8538
Fur Commission U.S.A.
PMB 506, 826 Orange Ave.
Coronado, CA 92118-2619
National Association of Animal Breeders
401 Bernadette Dr.
P.O. Box 1033
Columbia, MO 65205
Earnings and Benefits
Earnings vary widely among small animal breeders. For example, the cost of producing pelts—and the prices they bring—varies from year to year. Some breeders earn modest profits. Others make fairly large amounts of money. Technician salaries vary depending on experience and level of responsibility. Technicians usually receive benefits, such as paid holidays and vacations. Employees of large organizations may get health insurance and pension plans. Self-employed breeders must arrange for their own insurance and vacations.