Animal science department continues care for livestock through pandemic

(Archive Photo by Brooke Morris | Collegian Media Group)

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article erroneously referred to the dean of the College of Agriculture as Ernie Winton. His name is Ernie Minton. This error has been ameliorated. The Collegian regrets this mistake.

The animal science department has faced several challenges due to COVID-19, but the animals are staying particularly unaffected thanks to the efforts of the department staff.

Mike Day, head of the department of animal sciences and industry, said their first priority is the welfare of the animals.

“We haven’t reduced at all the caring that they get,” Day said.

Since the department employs many students, labor is short with so many absent.

“It has affected us labor-wise, as far as taking care of them,” Shane Werk, unit manager of the Purebred Beef Unit, said. “That’s been a challenge as far as having enough of us to get everything we need to get done.”

Werk said that he and other unit managers had to step up to get tasks done at a quicker pace than they were used to. The unit has given up minor tasks, such as cleaning offices and barns, in order to focus on feeding, calving and preparing for breeding season.

“You get the bare necessities done and then go from there,” Werk said.

Dean of the College of Agriculture Ernie Minton said the department has faced challenges such as “figuring out the social distancing piece so that we can continue to care for the livestock and also make sure the health and well-being of all the caretakers is maintained as well.”

The department has followed recommended rules of social distancing when caring for the animals, minimizing as much social contact as possible.

“Before COVID-19, two or three people would go out to feed a group of cows, now one goes,” Day said.

The dairy unit has also started off-setting shifts by having one individual work at a time.

According the animal science department, they have not been informed of evidence to suggest that animals can be carriers of COVID-19.

Day said he has been a professor for 35 years at three different universities and has never been in a situation like this.

“Nothing even close,” Day said.

“We are hopeful that we can return to a more normal campus environment,” Minton said. “Even though we can deliver content by distance, there is more to the university experience for students than just receiving information.”