By Tessa Heron
Along University Drive, pastures line the street on both sides, and often times cattle and sheep can be seen grazing in the open fields.
But where do these animals come from and whose responsibility is it to look after them?
There are two animal units at Cal Poly Pomona. Both are located on AG Valley Road. The Sheep and Swine Unit sits toward the bottom of the hill, near South Campus Drive, and the Beef Unit is located a short distance away at the top of the hill, near Parking Lot M.
While the units’ locations are separate from each other, there are parallels between them.
The Sheep and Swine Unit and the Beef Unit have several student assistants who live in housing in the barn buildings, ensuring that someone is close to the animals day and night and able to keep an eye on them at all times.
The majority of the classes offered at the units are geared toward Animal Science students. Labs include a reproduction lab, a physio anatomy lab and a handle and restraint lab.
The courses are designed to teach students about lactation and breeding, as well as provide them with a hands-on experience handling animal husbandry.
Danica Smevog, a fourth-year agribusiness student, has been working as a student assistant for nearly two years at the Sheep and Swine Unit. She, as well as two other student assistants, is in charge of caring for the sheep, goats and pigs.
“[Taylor Zumstein] is responsible for the sheep side, I’m responsible for the pig side and [Shannon Tomko] works on both sides and helps both of us out,” said Smevog. “That’s kind of how the routine works, and we have a schedule set up that revolves around our classes and when we are available to feed and take care of [the animals].”
Piglets are bred twice a year so they are available to the Animal Science classes in the fall and spring quarters. The students are in charge of checking on when the sows go into heat and the breeding of the pigs.
“We have about 20 of the bigger pigs out in pasture that we’re going to use for breeding, and we have probably 40 piglets that we just brought in,” said Smevog.
Steve Miller, the livestock technician and the Sheep and Swine Unit manager, said the facility was built in the 1950s.
“You can tell by the buildings that not a lot has changed,” said Miller. “The way we raise pigs is still the way it was done back in the days. As far as practices go, we have changed the way we do things there, but as far as the facilities go, we have kind of adapted to it and made the best of what we got.”
One practice that has changed at the swine unit is the way pigs are bred. More and more pigs are now the products of artificial insemination.
“We have two boars that we use for breeding, and we also do some artificial insemination,” said Miller. “Artificial insemination allows us to, in a quicker way, expand our genetic line and family tree, so to say. It also allows us to improve our carcass characteristics in our pigs for those that are buying pigs for meat.”
Laura Fogg, a fourth-year animal science student, has been working at the beef unit since July 2011.
Her responsibilities include the morning feeds and checking to make sure all the animals look healthy. She sees that their eyes are clear, ears are up and no animals are limping or not getting up to come eat.
She then either mounts her horse or gets in a truck to check on the cows grazing on the campus’ outer pastures, making sure all of them are healthy and well-nourished as well.
“I really enjoy just being outdoors and taking care of the animals,” said Fogg. “It’s really fun to walk through and make sure everyone looks healthy and that they are bright and alert. There are all different types of aspects to the job, but it’s definitely enjoyable.”
There are approximately 80 to 85 cattle at the Beef Unit, raging from newly born calves to several full grown bulls.
A cow is either born a heifer, female or a bull, male. When the cows come of age, they are either castrated so they become steers or are kept to become full-grown bulls. Only one or two males are generally kept as bulls for breeding seasons.
Cattle, just as sheep and swine, are bred in the fall and in the spring.
“For our spring calving, we have almost 30 cows that calve, and our fall calving we had about 12,” said Fogg.
Fogg said working as a student assistant at the Beef Unit has been an eye-opening experience and has given her a different perspective on what she wants to do as a career.
“I am planning to go to vet school and I never envisioned myself being interested in large animals,” said Fogg. “After this job, I am head-over-heels for large animals and I definitely want to be a large animal vet.”
Morgan Waites, a sixth-year animal science student, also works as a student assistant at the Beef Unit. She started the job in May 2011 and said she has enjoyed learning about the different aspects of taking care of animals.
“Of course I love working with all the animals, but I also enjoy just learning about the whole process of how to work a farm,” said Waites. “Some days I won’t even touch an animal. I’ll just be loading hay and restocking or helping out with whatever needs to be fixed. I just like the whole process.”
Tiana Teague/The Poly Post
Tiana Teague/The Poly Post
Sheep and Swine Unit
Tiana Teague/The Poly Post
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