Farmworkers are responsible for the care and feeding and housing maintenance for farm, ranch or aquacultural animals, including those for food production. This can include livestock such as cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and horses as well as poultry, finfish and shellfish. Farmworkers may also herd, brand, tag, weigh and load animals for transport. They keep detailed records of animal quality and health, and may administer medicine and vaccinations.
Duties and responsibilities
- Mix animal feed, additives and any prescribed medicines
- Feed and water livestock and maintain feed inventory and supplies
- Administer prescribed vaccinations, injectable medicines and other treatments to animals
- Herd livestock to pastures, enclosures, scales or transport
- Mark livestock for ownership and grade using tags, brands, tattoos or paint
- Examine animals for health, growth, weight gain, illness or injury
- Clean stalls, pens and equipment
- Maintain and repair machinery, equipment, fencing and buildings
- Patrol grazing areas on horseback or by vehicle and protect animals from predators
- Groom, clip or castrate animals, dock ears and tails, shear coats for hair collection
- Milk cows or goats by hand or via milking machine
- Trim, shear and otherwise process poultry
- Drive trucks to distribute feed, transport livestock and other duties
- Assist with animal births and other assignments related to animal reproduction
- Collect and inspect eggs, operate related egg processing and grading machinery
- Keep growth, feeding, production, health and cost records for animals
- Report data, costs, animal health problems and other issues to farmer, rancher or other agricultural manager
Skills and knowledge
AVERAGE WORKING HOURS
10- to 12-hour days
Many farmworkers put in long days and more than 40 hours a week. Your schedule will vary according to the needs of the animals, which may include early hours for optimum feeding, egg-collecting or milking duties. Farm work can be seasonally, depending on times when animals need more shelter, care and feeding.
Farmworkers may work inside animal housing, or outdoors where extreme temperatures and weather are possible. Those who work with animals can be at risk of injuries such as being kicked or bitten, and there may be exposure to some chemicals or illnesses. Farmworkers may operate dangerous machinery and are responsible for the safety of themselves and their coworkers.
Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.
A high school diploma is not needed for many farmworker jobs, though it is typically required for more advanced positions like animal breeder. Some animal breeding and supervisory roles may require a postsecondary degree.
You will receive a few weeks of on-the-job training on work procedures, equipment, machinery and safety protocols. Additional training will be provided for more complex machinery. Some previous experience working with livestock is usually needed for roles with more responsibility, including animal breeding.
After gaining experience as a farmworker, you may advance to a supervisory position such as crew leader. With extensive experience, some farmworkers go on to be agricultural managers or to own their own farm or ranch.
You may also transition to similar roles, such as purchasing agent for farm products or as a veterinary assistant. With additional education, you may consider a career path from agricultural science technician to agricultural scientist.