GRAND ISLAND, Neb. – A popular attraction at summer fairs across the country feature newborn or hatched animals that allow patrons to see them up close. For a group of students at Northeast Community College they had an experience working with animals in a such a setting they’ll never forget.
Students in the Veterinary Technology program traveled to the Nebraska State Fair in Grand Island to assist in the birthing pavilion, hosted by the Nebraska Veterinary Medical Association (NVMA). The NVMA operates the pavilion every year during the fair.
Dr. Kassie Wessendorf, veterinary technician instructor, said NVMA obtains animals from local producers that have been bred to give birth during the state fair.
“The animals are monitored overnight by fourth year veterinary students on externship. Northeast veterinary technician students helped monitor the animals throughout the day, give treatments, and answer questions from the general public,” Wessendorf said. “They also learned about proper record keeping, gestation lengths, and signs of labor in animals.”
Animals typically include dairy and beef cattle, swine, goats, sheep, and ducks and chicks. There were three sows in the birthing pavilion - one with a litter, one that was in the early stages of labor, and one that was being induced.
“I really enjoyed watching the sow go into labor and getting to experience that for the first time in person,” said student Vanessa Lukes, Geneva. “It was a huge learning experience for me because I didn't grow up around large animals.”
The Northeast students had the opportunity to help milk one of the dairy cows that had calved as the calf could not drink enough milk to keep the cow’s udder comfortable. Students also monitored the duck pool and slide, an area where recently hatched ducklings were able to swim.
The experience was part of a grant the program through the USDA to encourage students into food animal medicine. Northeast Community College’s Veterinary Technology program is collaborating with several businesses and organizations in Nebraska to expand large animal experiences for the students.
Wessendorf said they hope to take students back to the state fair’s birthing pavilion in future years.
“It is important to give students opportunities in food animal medicine that we don’t always get on campus,” she said. “Students saw things like farrowing crates, milking methods and egg incubators.
This was a great chance to educate the students and for the students to share their knowledge with the general public.”
Student Gicelle Garcia-Barraza, Hastings, said the experience confirmed for her she has chosen the correct career path.
“Growing up in the city I never had the luxury to be around large animals,” Garcia-Barraza said. “One of my favorite things about the birthing pavilion was learning how to milk a cow. It was such an amazing experience and it helped me confirm that the vet tech program was definitely my calling.”
Northeast Community College veterinary technology students and their instructor take a break from their work next to the sows in the birthing pavilion at the Nebraska State Fair in Grand Island in early September. Pictured (from left) are Courtney Young, Pierce, Gicelle Garcia-Barraza, Hastings, Mikaela Flores, West Point, Dr. Kassie Wessendorf (instructor), and Vanessa Lukes, Geneva.