Zach Donnenfield | Mustang News

Spring at Cal Poly brings warmer weather, blooming flowers and the start of a new quarter. As students return from spring break, the community will welcome baby sheep, cows and horses to the on-campus pastures. For many students in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES), this offers an opportunity to help in rearing and caring for the new additions.

In the Cal Poly Equine Center, mares and foals roam pastures with several barns nearby. The 150-acre plot of pasture will be home to 14 new foals this spring, according to Equine Center Supervisor Julie Volk-Yuhas. Like the other animal centers on campus, students play an active role in the care of different animals.

Cal Poly’s Sheep Center includes a 140-acre pasture that helps to sustain much of the sheep’s diets. The sheep and goats’ grazing benefits the land and offers nutrients to sheep and the newborn lambs.

Cows give birth multiple times per year and this coming spring, Dairy Operations Manager Cedric Blanc estimates 17 new calves in April and another 21 calves in May. These newborns receive care from animal science and dairy science students led by Calf Care Manager Will Greenwood.

The workers in the Dairy Unit give calves the food and care vital in their early stages. The entire process is student-run.

Animal science students get some of the most hands-on interactions with these baby animals.  In the Swine and Dairy Centers, students participate in vaccinating, feeding, and maintaining animals from birth.

Animal science freshman Kenna Doeden spent nearly 30 hours with animals at Escuela Cow-Calf Enterprise Fall 2017 in Advanced Animal Production and Management Enterprise (ASCI 490). 

“The cows will calve by themselves and each morning and evening, groups go out to check for new babies,” Doeden said.

After finding new calves, students tag and weigh the animal before returning it to
the pasture.

According to Doedon, they also branded calves, gave them vaccinations and castrated bull calves. These skills and techniques can be developed through practice with the baby animals.

“They really do it all,” Blanc said, referring to how each aspect of the calving process is handled by students.

The student-run care and management of newborn animals encapsulates much of Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing philosophy. For students not involved in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences, these newborn animals can still be seen grazing through pastures at the northwest end of campus near Poly
Canyon Village.

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