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.
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.
Livestock Appraiser Duties & Responsibilities
When an appraiser works with a client to value their livestock, they follow an accepted appraisal process that involves several steps. Livestock appraisers typically do tasks such as the following:
- Verify descriptions of the livestock being valued, such as the size, type, weight, gender, and cost
- Inspect the animals, noting the characteristics
- Photograph the livestock for documentation purposes
- Analyze “comparables,” or other livestock with similar characteristics that has already been sold, to help support values
- Review the accounting treatment for the livestock, such as whether it has been depreciated
- Prepare written reports on the livestock's value
- Prepare and maintain current data on livestock sales
Livestock Appraiser Salary
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) lists the median salary for property appraisers and assessors as follows:
- Median Annual Salary: More than $54,980 ($26.43/hour)
- Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $102,590 ($49.32/hour)
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: More than $29,690 ($14.27/hour)
Education, Training & Certification
To become a livestock appraiser, you don't need a college degree, but you do need a great deal of practical knowledge and relevant experience.
- Hands-on experience: 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.
- Relevant coursework: While a degree isn't necessary, coursework in accounting and finance is helpful to educate appraisers on some of the accounting issues that may arise with regard to appraisal work.
- Internships: 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: 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.
Livestock Appraiser Skills & Competencies
In addition to having extensive experience and knowledge about livestock appraisal, individuals can benefit greatly from having some of the soft skills that help them follow through, stay organized, and be effective, such as:
- Time management skills: Appraisers must have excellent time management skills and the ability to work under the pressure of a deadline.
- Math skills: Appraisals involve a good amount of numerical data
- Analytical skills: Appraisers may use many sources of information when valuing livestock, and they need to be able to handle it well and draw good conclusions from it
- Communication skills: A good amount of the data needed for the appraisal is gathered from conversations with the livestock owner, so good communication skills are important
- Attention to detail: Appraisals involve important details that, if missed, could greatly affect the outcome of the analysis and cost the client lost profits or value.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that job growth for appraisers and assessors will be about 14% from 2016 to 2026, representing a faster rate of growth than the average for all professions.
Even with the growth, however, 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 valuing livestock and the ability to provide thorough valuation opinion reports in a timely manner.
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. 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.
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.
How to Get the Job
Look at job-search resources like Indeed.com, Monster.com, and Glassdoor.com for available agricultural appraiser positions. You can also visit the websites of individual agricultural appraisal firms and agricultural appraisal industry groups to see if they list job openings.
FIND AN INTERNSHIP
Attend events held by professional appraisal trade groups, such as International Society of Livestock Appraisers (ISLA), the American Society of Agricultural Appraisers (ASAA), and the American Society of Equine Appraisers (ASEA). Make contacts and ask how you can land an internship for hands-on training. You can also find internships through online job search sites.
Comparing Similar Jobs
People interested in becoming a livestock appraiser also consider the following career paths, listed with their median annual salaries:
- Claims Adjusters, Appraisers, Examiners, and Investigators: $65,670
- Construction and Building Inspectors: $59,700
- Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents: $50,300