For dairy science senior Will Greenwood, feeding a hungry herd of calves at the Dairy Unit is the start to a typical Sunday morning.
Greenwood is one of seven Cal Poly students who take care of Cal Poly’s calves. Jobs offered at the Dairy Unit are open to any student, regardless of major.
Greenwood is the calf care manager, requiring him to not only learn how to manage the dairy and the cows, but also the people who work there.
Greenwood’s work at the dairy is completely immersive, his studio apartment is located at the dairy science center. He wakes up every morning at around 4:30 a.m. to begin the daily care of the calves until the chores of the day are done.
“Living here, I also have a responsibility to these animals. If someone doesn’t show up to work, I need to make sure that, you know, someone’s out here to make sure everyone’s taken care of, everyone’s fed,” Greenwood said.
Greenwood’s job requires him to make sure the students are doing their work and the cows’ needs are met.
Dairy Operations Manager Cedric Blanc oversees and teaches Greenwood and all the students working at the dairy center. Having grown up with agriculture, Blanc understands the relationship humans and cows have.
“Dairy cows have been selected to, in part, fit our mammalian needs. There’s a big maternal aspect to it and the overall demeanor of cattle is very calming, soothing and compassionate, I think,” Blanc said.
Blanc’s relationship with cows inspires his ambition to pass on personal experiences to his students. Blanc loves the enthusiasm he gets from students and, because working at the dairy center is open to all students, it helps them connect with animal agriculture.
“Dr. Blanc has been a great mentor to me. So, really getting to work with all these great people has made this job a lot more fun,” Greenwood said.
Dr. Blanc is a strong believer of a hands-on approach when teaching at the dairy, even in important situations, like delivering a calf. This is an experience Greenwood has had that many other students cannot claim.
“You first have to get the calf out, then you have to make sure that the calf is breathing and things like that,” Greenwood said.
Calves can sometimes breach, which means their feet can come out first, while their head is still stuck in the uterus, causing suffocation or airway blockage from leftover mucus.
“You know it is a great feeling when you finally pull the calf out and put the calf on the ground,” Greenwood said.
But, it does not end there.
“You can’t stand there and relish the feeling too long, you have to just go right back to work on it,” Greenwood said.
Passing the torch
With Greenwood’s graduation date approaching at the end of this quarter, his time spent learning at the campus dairy will soon come to an end. Now, he is working to pass the torch to the next student manager.
Graphic by Alice Neary
One potential replacement is animal science freshman Kelsey Long, who one day wants to become a large animal veterinarian as Greenwood does. Long started her job at the dairy this quarter and is paid, along with the other students in the group, to feed and take care of the calves.
While she knows she still has a lot to learn, Long is thankful for Greenwood’s eagerness to help out the other students.
“People are more willing to help you if you help them. I eventually hope to be the herdsman, the person that everyone can look up to,” Long said.
Greenwood discussed how the relationship amongst students working at the dairy center was crucial for him when he first started.
“It took people that were willing to teach me when I knew almost nothing for me to get where I am today and you know it would be kind of an injustice if I didn’t return the favor to people that are younger than me or less experienced than me,” Greenwood said.
As a graduating senior, Greenwood hopes his experience as a manager will help him land a good job when he leaves Cal Poly.
“It gives me the opportunity to step into an entry-level management position. It gives me the option to not only manage young stock or calves, but it gives me the opportunity to manage other aspects of the dairy that I’ve worked on,” Greenwood said.
Finding a good job is important, but Greenwood said lately he has gotten fulfillment from the people he works with.
Greenwood cited how working with a mixture of driven students from various majors has made the learning process more fun.
“The variety of experiences they have. The variety of personalities they have. Their general ‘can-do,’ ‘go-get-em’ attitude. They’re a really great group of people to work around,” Greenwood said.
Wherever Greenwood ends up, he can always look back on his time as a student and working at the dairy.
“It’s one of those college experiences you can have that you might not have later on. If you’re an engineer, you might be in an office and this time in college you were able to milk a cow. Some students have changed majors because of it, so we’re proud of that,” Blanc said.