May 24 2017 09:00 AM

Students enrolled in the calving enterprise at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo learn essential farm management skills.

A unique aspect of the education system at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), San Luis Obispo is the “Learn by Doing” approach to educational skills in class. In the dairy science program, instructors offer enterprises to allow students a hands-on experience to the material taught. One of these specific enterprises is called the calving enterprise, held at the Cal Poly Dairy during the fall and spring quarters of the school year.

The enterprise is a two-unit class taught by dairy science instructor Rich Silacci. The class meets once a week for two hours to learn instructions for calving protocols and proper animal handling. Calf management skills are demonstrated, including identification, dehorning, and vaccinating.

Students are put into groups of about six with an assigned group leader. The groups are then given a 24-hour period for one day in the week where they oversee the group of close-up cows. Once the cow calves, the group members are responsible for milking the fresh cow, feeding the newborn calf colostrum, and completing other calf tasks such as ear tagging.

For graduating dairy science major Emma Sills, the experience has taught her many life skills. “Being involved in the enterprise, both as a group member in the fall and a leader now in the spring, has prepared me for a career in the dairy industry. It allowed me to work with and manage fellow students in a team setting, work on my communication skills, and get a hands-on experience that emphasized what I have learned here over the past four years and kept my passion for the industry alive.”

The 3 a.m. phone call that a cow is calving is part of the lifestyle that dairy farmers around the world experience. Students not only learn about how to calve cows properly and take care of calves, they also get a taste for the unique parts of dairy farming, such as the very early mornings!

Other examples of enterprises Cal Poly offers in the animal science department include foaling, vet clinic, and goat care. Students are given a long list to choose from so they can specialize in certain areas of the animal science industry. These on-farm skills are very beneficial for students to master so they are prepared for a career in agriculture.

Elise Regusci

Elise Regusci grew up on her family's farm in Modesto, Calif. Regusci attends Cal Poly University, majoring in dairy science with an agricultural communication minor. On campus, she is the Los Lecheros Dairy Club Ag Council representative and a member of the Cal Poly dairy judging team. Regusci is the current Brown Swiss Youth Ambassador and will be the 2017 Hoard's Dairyman summer editorial intern.