Duke arrives at NRHS
Students in Rachel Sauvola's large animal science program at New Richmond High School welcomed a new member to the class on Tuesday, Oct. 16, when a 79 pound bull calf arrived.
The calf, whom the students have named Duke, is on loan from Jim and Chris Miller. He will spend the first few months of his life in the agriscience classroom. The students are responsible for his upkeep.
According to Sauvola, Duke will live at the high school through January 2013, when the class ends. It's unclear what will happen to him at that time. Sauvola said it's possible another of her classes at NRHS could "adopt" him until the end of the year; otherwise, he'll return to the Miller farm, where Mollie Miller, a sixth grade FFA member at New Richmond Middle School, will raise him until he's the proper weight for slaughter.
The Millers decided to lend NRHS the animal after touring the agriscience facilities earlier this year.
"I was looking for a local producer to help me fulfill my mission, this worked perfectly," Sauvola said.
The large animal students' first day with Duke was spent learning about what they'll be doing to ensure he's raised properly. For example, the students will be responsible for weaning, cleaning, castrating and dehorning Duke. They'll also be charting his growth in journals.
Since Duke's schedule doesn't revolve around the 9:30 a.m. class (he needs to be fed three or four times each day), students will also be responsible for chores before and after school. They'll alternate those duties weekly.
"We'll also need to record our observations," Sauvola said.
Observations are particularly important in regards to Jersey calves, said Chris Miller.
"They're one of the quickest to give up and die," she said.
Sauvola told the students that their observations could be crucial in determining patterns and other information. For example, if students begin to notice runny, yellow, foul-smelling feces it could indicate calf scours, an indicator of disease.
"You will be observing things that you never thought you would," Sauvola said. "We did see him poop earlier and it was brown with a nice consistency."
In addition to maintaining the calf, students will also study the calf's anatomy and teach Duke to walk on a halter.
Sauvola said raising a calf is a project she's wanted students to experience since designing the facility five years ago.
"I have so many students who have never touched live large animals, but have a genuine love of animals," she said. "I wanted to create a place where they could learn all the ins and outs of care and management just as a producer would on a farm."
Sauvola said this project will allow students to experience first-hand what goes into the food they eat on their tables.
"By starting with a young calf, they can watch him grow and develop and know that they are making a difference in the ways they are feeding and managing him," he said.
The Duke project is just the beginning of a potentially larger project, Sauvola said.
"This is our beginning steps with the hope that one day we can work it out so that the FFA chapter buys the animal with one person in charge of showing it at the fair and using it as their Meat Animal Project," she said.