Livestock Appraiser Career Profile
Livestock appraisers determine the market value of animals that are to be sold or insured.
Appraisals are a formal way of defining the market value of animals. Appraisal documentation may be required for the purpose of loans, audits, insurance coverage or claims, divorce settlements, bankruptcies, pre-auction price estimates, and a variety of other financial transactions.
Appraisers write a report that details their valuation of the animal, the purpose for which the appraisal was undertaken (insurance, sale, collateral), supporting documentation, and their own industry credentials. Appraisers may receive appraisal requests from a variety of sources including farm owners, ranchers, banks, attorneys, estate managers, government agencies, and insurance companies. They may also be called to serve as expert witnesses in legal proceedings.
An appraiser must frequently work in the field as they must travel to livestock facilities to directly assess animals. Additional hours are completed in an office setting to complete the necessary reports, research, and documentation involved in an appraisal. The schedule for an appraiser may include some night, weekend, and holiday hours so that they may complete their duties in the time frame mandated by clients. Appraisers must have excellent time management skills and the ability to work under the pressure of a deadline.
Livestock appraisers can choose to work with a wide variety of livestock species or to specialize by working in one specific area (such as dairy cattle or beef cattle). Some appraisers also offer appraisal services for farm equipment and agricultural properties. Others act as livestock auctioneers and can offer those services to their clients.
Many livestock appraisers choose to work strictly on a freelance basis and are self-employed. Others choose to take salaried positions with appraisal companies, insurance firms, or other related entities.
While no specific degree is required for livestock appraisers, most successful candidates have extensive practical experience working in the livestock industry as breeders, extension agents, or other closely related roles. Prior experience with judging animals at livestock shows (breed shows, 4-H events, or agricultural fairs) is another big plus. Candidates may benefit from interning with an experienced professional before striking out on their own if such an opportunity presents itself. There is no substitute for hands-on experience in the agricultural industry.
Certification for livestock appraisers is available through the International Society of Livestock Appraisers (ISLA), the American Society of Agricultural Appraisers (ASAA), and the American Society of Equine Appraisers (ASEA). These professional membership groups were founded in the early 1980s and provide certification, training, and a code of ethics for their members. Some appraisers choose to become certified in multiple areas while others only belong to one organization.
The Appraisals Qualification Board (AQB), a government agency, has defined Personal Property Appraiser Minimum Qualification Criteria that went into effect on January 1, 2015. Appraisers meeting the educational and experiential requirements will have another valuable qualification that they can highlight to their clients. The AQB criteria will be the expected standard in the industry, so appraisers are encouraged to comply with the criteria as soon as possible. The previously mentioned membership groups (ISLA, ASAA, and ASEA) are already offering courses to help their appraisers meet the new AQB criteria.
The salary a livestock appraiser earns can vary widely based on the number of clients they serve each year, the type of animals they evaluate, their years of experience, their personal reputation in the industry, and the geographic area in which they operate. Appraisers are compensated for each job they complete, earning the greatest compensation when completing evaluations for large herds. Experienced appraisers can expect to earn top dollar once they establish a solid reputation with the agricultural professionals in their community.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that the median salary for property appraisers and assessors was $48,500 per year ($22.32 per hour) in the May 2010 survey. The lowest ten percent of appraisers earned a salary of less than $25,920 per year while the highest ten percent of appraisers earned a salary of more than $90,650 per year.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that job growth for appraisers and assessors will be about 7 percent from 2010 to 2020, representing a slower rate of growth than the average for all professions. Competition for livestock appraisal positions can be particularly keen as there is a limited demand for such services. Nevertheless, positions should be available for those who have extensive practical experience with evaluating livestock and the ability to provide thorough reports in a timely manner.