UM Cattle course becoming a reality
CLARKSVILLE, Md. — When the trailer door opened in June and three white heifers slowly stepped off into a field at their new home at the University of Maryland’s Central Maryland Research and Education Center, they brought a new hands-on course for students one step closer to reality.
The Charolais heifers joined three Wye Angus-Holstein cross-bred heifers that came from an earlier research project to make up the start of a new Beef Management/Calf Watch class in the university’s Department of Animal and Avian Sciences, set to debut for the Fall 2023 semester.
The herd will also be used for hands-on Extension workshops and training for beef producers, according to Racheal Slattery, the department’s beef and dairy coordinator, who is leading the project. An open house for the newly-established herd was held on July 28 at the research farm.
The new course will give students hands-on experience with cattle and train them to help producers, particularly with spring calving, Slattery said.
The class is modeled after another class in the department, Sheep Management/Lamb Watch, which has become very popular with students.
Starting a herd with hands-on capabilities for students and producers has been a goal of Slattery’s since coming to the university six years ago.
“I’ve been wanting to develop this course for quite a long time because it’s been missing in the Animal Science department,” Slattery said.
But before the cows could arrive, Slattery and staff at the research farm worked since the beginning of the year to tear out old horse wire fencing, clear brush and debris and install new fencing for a rotational grazing system.
The herd occupies land at the farm that has too much slope to safely raise field crops.
The center is also working with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service technicians to revive a gravity-fed watering station for the animals in a remote part of the pasture.
The Charolais heifers were born in October of 2021, and are a gift to the Department of Animal and Avian Sciences from Robert and Judy Tibbs of Shadow Springs Farm in Harford County, Md.
The Tibbses are well-known for breeding quality animals with good temperament a hallmark of their herd and have a long history of helping youth learn through animal projects.
“I am very thankful to Shadow Springs Farm for their very generous gift,” Slattery said. “I absolutely cannot wait for class to start. I know the students are going to really enjoy working with them.”
In 2023, the heifers will be brought to the campus farm at end of their pregnancies, and through the month of October, students will keep a round-the-clock watch to ensure healthy births.
Slattery said on-campus lessons will focus on obstetrics, facility design for calving and developing feed rations for the mothers and calves.
The class will also work with the herd at the Clarksville site with lessons focusing on facility design for rotational grazing, animal care and safe handling practices.