For Spring Lambing, Vet Students Make House Calls
Somebody call the lambulance!
Spring’s lambing season brings to mind images of adorable little frolicking sheep in a barn. As charming as these wee sheepies are, when things go wrong, “who you gonna call?” Colorado State University’s Department of Veterinary Medicine “lambulance” service offers its senior veterinary students a hands-on clinical experience in northern Colorado and southern Wyoming sheep-ranching communities.
Every spring during lambing season at the Warren Ranch north of Cheyenne, Wyoming, students get a firsthand look at a large-scale commercial sheep ranch. The course was started in the late 1990s by Professor Cleon Kimberling, and for over a decade, the service has been overseen by professor of livestock medicine and surgery Dr. David Van Metre. About 4,000 of the Warren Livestock
Company’s Warhill dams give birth to about 7,000 lambs in the spring. Students can take the elective over four to five weeks every spring, during which they witness the birth of numerous lambs and get practical experience in the field.
One of the country’s top-ranked veterinary programs, the school offers veterinary field services to the region’s ranchers through the teaching hospital’s Livestock Medicine Service. Everything from small-scale hobby farms to large commercial ranches benefit from the CSU veterinarian program’s farm visits.
Dr. Van Metre teaches students in all four years of the veterinary program, and his goal for the students’ fourth year is to give them as much field experience as possible. He explains, “I try to get students out onto local farms and ranches to see as broad of a variety of livestock operations as possible—hobby, 4-H, meat, dairy, fiber, organic, the whole gamut. We do try to include in that training visits to farms with fine-wool production. We find the whole process—shearing, handspinning, coloring, processing, and marketing fiber products—to be very interesting. It is clear that the people involved in it really enjoy their work.”
“Most lifelong career ranchers have enough experience in helping livestock through the birthing process that they can address most minor problems themselves. We (veterinarians) are then utilized to help with more complicated or serious problems, which tend to be relatively rare,” says Dr. Van Metre. This opportunity to learn on a working farm is a way to educate not only veterinary students but also ranch workers—it is a mutually beneficial relationship.
For more information about Colorado State University’s veterinary program, please visit http://csu-cvmbs.colostate.edu.
Featured Image: Warren Ranch is known for developing its own breed of sheep, the Warhill, known for producing twins and quality fleece. In the lambing barn, blue numbers match newborns and ewes.
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