Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Careers with Horses - The Bloodstock Agent

Want to be make a career of running around with the most beautiful horses? Maybe becoming a bloodstock agent is the job for you. You won't get too dirty and, best of all, this is one of the few jobs with horses that can make you some real  money!  If you're good at it, of course. 

What does a bloodstock agent do?
 Research pedigrees, document the results of your research and then travel to check them out.  More often than not, your clients will have a specific horse in mind, so you need to find affordable horses that meet their particular needs.   You will probably go with your clients to check out the horse(s),  or go with them to an auction or stud farm.  They'll depend on you and your well-developed expertise.
Traditionally, bloodstock agents have worked in the racing industry, and with thoroughbreds or standardbreds. Nowadays, more and more breeders, owners and riders are using agents.  

Where do I begin?
Education, developing an "eye," and salesmanship. You'll need to learn about the most popular theories  of horse breeding, like The Female Line, Nicking, and Dosage.  Some methods, like Dosage, use a point system that includes complicated mathematical formulas. A degree in genetics may be a bonus, but it isn’t necessary.

There are some courses you can take.  Try contacting the registries of the breeds you want to work with, and see if they know of farms that offer bloodstock courses.  Many equestrian colleges offer programs or classes in equine genetics.

Next, you need to learn about the breeding of horses in your industry of choice. Get a hold of industry magazines and seek out auction catalogs.  Familiarize yourself with main bloodlines and the type of horse they produce, and which crosses work best, etc.  Test yourself--pick a horse, estimate the sales price and confirm the actual price paid! 

Your clients will rely on your being able to point out what a good horse looks like--it's called "having a good eye."  And you can only develop that skill by looking at hundreds of horses.  Start with photos, but know that you have to get with the horses to watch how they move, their behaviors with humans and other horses, etc.  Contact your local stable for some help.  Or better still, volunteer at the stable or a farm or a racetrack.  Hone your skills and identify the best--the one that you would recommend to a paying client.  And for those of you who are lucky enough to knowing a working bloodstock agent--tag along and offer to assist them!

You will need to be a good salesperson, so excellent writing and communication skills are a must.

How does a bloodstock agent make money?
Most agents charge a mix of fees and commissions, but one standard prevails--the money you make depends on how good you are!  Some take a percentage of the price of a horse, others charge additional fees for research or attending a sale. Bloodstock agents trying to match a breeder’s mares with the best choice of stallion may take a commission from the sale price or winnings of an offspring.  The business of bloodstock agent is all about getting good references that result  not only in repeat business but new clients.  And how do you get those good references?  By consistently identifying good horses at good prices. 

The one thing to keep in mind is that the business contains a huge element of chance.  A horse with poor breeding can be a great jumper;  a well-bred horse can be slow as molasses.  A successful blood stock agent combines learning with solid "horse sense"...pun intended!  

Friday, March 24, 2017

Building a Strong Connection with your Parrot

Developing a great connection with your parrot starts the first day you bring her home. Behavioral problems of all kinds can be avoided by having a keen eye, creating an exciting environment, and demonstrating respect. 

Fundamentals of Parrot Partnering

 You need room to move--so does a parrot.  Remember:  your friend has to spend many hours in her cage.  Be sure to provide lots of toys, but not so many as to crowd the cage.  Rotate the playthings every week or two and be sure to check the playground daily to ensure safety (no sharp edges or small pieces). 

Your parrot likes a change of environment as much as you do--release her from her cage as often and for as long as you can.  And remember, studies show that parrots form pair bonds; in essence you are her mate.  Think about a perch in every room so your parrot can always be with you. For smaller birds, an untreated wicker basket and for larger birds a tree branch or piece of PVC piping. 

 A parrot’s diet ought to consist of fresh fruits and vegetables, pellets, and seeds. A balanced diet with lots of fresh food is very important.  There is much information on the internet about appropriate percentages for each species. Feeding can also contribute to environment--concealing food in toys or under various items makes her work for her food, and is a great source of entertainment. 

Toys and Games
 Toys are an important part of any parrot’s life. Toys are a form of environmental enhancement, used to maintain captive animals’ health in zoos and breeding programs as well as in homes. The fact is that parrots in our homes don't have much to do.  No foraging, no avian interaction, no offspring rearing, etc.  They need something to stimulate their minds and their bodies, and toys provide that. Puzzle toys are great for developing problem-solving skills. Rope toys are great for hanging on and gaining good balance.

You should be part of the entertainment.  Fetch, hide and seek, shape/color identification--interactive games are as important with parrots as they are with small children. They help create a strong bond between you both and promote intellectual development.

 Parrots are extremely intelligent.  A wonderful way to get them to use their intelligence is by spending time every day in training.  Clicker training is a great way to train your birds to do both fun and necessary behaviors. The parrot learns to repeat the behavior he was doing when he heard the click, and, thereby, can learn to do many tasks on cue.  The internet has many sites that explain clicker training.

Parrots live in neat little pairs. This is why most parrots have a favorite person even if they are tended by all family members.   Some species are more likely than others to prefer one person. Within these pairs, each parrot is more or less equal. Parrots do not use force to dominate one another. When we try to use force with our parrots, we get one of two results--either the parrot retreats from us, or it fights back and we get bitten. Neither is the result that we want.  What we do want is a parrot who respects us and enjoys our company.   

Parrots enrich our lives and it is up to us to be the best companions we can be for them.  It can be a challenge, but the end result is a rewarding partnership between parrot and person.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

March 23rd is National Puppy Day

National Puppy Day seeks to celebrate the unconditional love that puppies bring to people's lives.  Held each year on March 23 and celebrating its 11th year, it is the inspiration of lifestyle expert Colleen Paige, who also created National Dog Day and National Cat Day.  The goal, says the National Puppy Day website, is "to help save orphaned puppies across the globe and educate the public about the horrors of puppy mills."

National Puppy Day Facts & Quotes
  • There are approximately 500-600 million dogs, including strays, throughout the world.
  • In the USA, it is estimated that 2.11 million puppies are sold from puppy mills.
  • Puppies Behind Bars is a training program that helps inmates to raise service dogs in prisons.
  • Puppy mills are commercial dog-breeding organizations that focus on profit, while ignoring the health and welfare of the animals. 3 million puppies are killed in puppy mills because they are too full and not enough have found homes.
  • “I'm suspicious of people who don't like dogs, but I trust a dog when it doesn't like a person.” ― Bill Murray
Don't Take A Puppy For Granted
  • Having a puppy is like having a baby or child. They need your time, attention and effort. 
  • Socialization is the key to a happy puppy and, ultimately, a balanced dog. They need to ply with other dogs.  They need to be comfortable around people other than you. 
  • Spay or neuter your pet. Let's break the cycle of "throwaway" dogs.
National Puppy Day Top Events and Things to Do
  • Visit an animal shelter and adopt a puppy in need. Most cities have a local shelter where you can visit and adopt a pet in the same day. Remember to spay or neuter your pet in order to control the stray dog population.
  • Spread awareness by using the hashtags #nationalpuppyday and #puppyday on social media and also share pictures of your dog or pictures of dogs you like.
  • Share a picture of your puppy (or dog as a puppy) on Facebook.
  • Donate your time or money to a local animal shelter or an organization that supports stray animals. There is always a need for help walking, feeding, playing with and cleaning up after the animals. You can also make a financial donation to organizations such as ASPCA and the Humane Society.

And remember...puppies grow up.  Too many dogs are surrendered once they've outgrown the cute stage.

If you're ready for a puppy, there's one waiting for you.   On National Puppy Day, drop by your local shelter and find a new friend.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Vet Team Fatigue

If members of a vet team are suffering from burnout, there’s no doubt it will affect efficiency, success and profitability of a practice.  That’s why it’s essential for practice owners or managers to take steps to handle stressful situations.
Consider your veterinary practice:
  • Are you providing continuing education for your staff to inspire new knowledge?
  • Are you giving them adequate daily let-up in the form of breaks and time away from work?
  • Are you providing benefits, such as health insurance, so staff can seek out professional care?
Think about appointing someone on the team to oversee individual workloads and determine if each employee has the tools necessary for success.
And keep those communication lines open, regardless of the topic. Disturbance in the practice should always be discussed and worthy of an action plan.
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) took a look at whether team effectiveness could reduce burnout and improve job satisfaction among veterinary teams.
The study found that “all veterinary team members, not only veterinarians, were at risk of burnout and that elements relating to team effectiveness contributed to or detracted from an individual’s level of burnout. The serious organizational and individual repercussions of burnout suggest a need for the veterinary profession to consider and address contributing factors. Individual practices can begin by evaluating the overall function of the veterinary team.”
Suggestions for improving team effectiveness
Based on this study and prior studies that included both  human and veterinary medicine, the authors came up with suggestions for animal hospitals to improve team effectiveness, thereby preventing burnout and job dissatisfaction.
  1. Increase individual engagement
“Increasing work engagement may prevent and alleviate burnout by enhancing an individual employee’s energy, vigor, and resilience,” researchers wrote. They also reported that respondents’ job satisfaction levels appeared to be tied to how engaged they felt with their position.
Suggestions for increasing work engagement included:
Acknowledging an individual’s contributions to the functioning of the hospital, and making them feel like integral team members.
Encouraging team members to further develop their skills and knowledge.
Empowering team members through means such as “support and guidance, access to information about organizational activities and decisions, resources to complete their jobs in a meaningful fashion, and opportunities to grow and develop.”
  1. Build a better coordinated team environment
The authors wrote that a coordinated team environment promotes increased professional efficacy.
Suggestions for building a better coordinated team environment:
Regularly evaluate internal communications to ensure all team members have the latest information.
Give team members the opportunity to provide suggestions aimed at improving patient and client service.
Recognize team members’ contributions and provide them with career and knowledge development opportunities.
  1. Avoid team toxicity
Working in a hospital with a toxic team environment can lead to staff fatigue, greater turnover rates, lack of respect, distrust of management, and job dissatisfaction.
Suggestions for removing toxicity from team environments:
Maintaining a zero-tolerance policy for incivility.
Facilitating information sharing to build respect and trust.
Improving human resource management practices to recruit and retain qualified workers.
Avoiding work overload by considering current staffing levels and individual workloads.
Identifying and resolving conflicts efficiently, and ensuring that all employees are treated equally and fairly.

There continues to be a shortage of credentialed veterinary technicians; finding qualified staff is a major complaint of practices.  Attracting and retaining qualified individuals may be directly linked to implementing steps to combat veterinary team burnout.