Students in the Department of Animal, Dairy and Veterinary Sciences (ADVS) once again had the opportunity to make the trip to Broadbent Ranch in Granger, Wyoming, to participate in Sheep Day, a long-standing tradition for students in the department. The event gives students opportunities to gain hands-on experience at one of the last large sheep range operations in the United States.
A typical Sheep Day allows students to experience a day-in-the-life of a livestock producer. Participants start the day bright and early by traveling to the work site. They then spend a full day working on the ranch, meaning 10-plus hours of work, with only short breaks to eat a meal and rest for a few moments before getting back to the tasks at hand.
Although a tiring experience, the event offers many learning opportunities for students. Most of the physical labor involved is conducting breeding soundness exams on rams, to assess the ability of each ram to continue their job of breeding ewes. ADVS sheep and goat specialist Chad Page who led the fieldtrip explained, “A normal breeding soundness exam consists of a physical evaluation, scrotal evaluation, and semen evaluation.”
Freshman ADVS student April Burton attended Sheep Day for the first time this semester. She raises sheep and goats and was excited to expand her knowledge of good management practices that she can implement in her future endeavors. She found that properly conducting these evaluations “helps the owner know what the rams are deficient in and what management practices to change to ensure the health of [their] sheep.”
Burton also enjoyed learning about wool quality and getting to spend the day with other small ruminant enthusiasts. She believes that fieldtrips such as Sheep Day spark students’ imaginations as they see real-world situations in the industry. It gives them experience and helps them to see the potential of what could be.
Sheep Day excursions were originally spearheaded by emeritus professor “Doc” Lyle McNeal around 30 years ago. The event continues to give students a unique learning experience, with many students attending multiple times during their tenure at USU and learning new things each time. This type of collaboration between USU and ranchers truly fulfills the university’s land-grant mission of education, research and Extension.
Attendance at this semester’s event was limited due to COVID-19 precautions, but Page feels that it was still a great success. Even with smaller numbers, students were able to conduct roughly 400 breeding soundness exams of rams. Sheep Day will take place during the fall semester. Interested students can contact Chad Page or visit the USU Extension – Sheep and Goat Facebook page to learn how to get involved.