Emily Reid, Campus Carrier staff writer
A rainy start to the semester has left cattle operations with flooded pastures, bacteria in flood waters and even canoeing adventures through the pastures.
The daily responsibilities of Tom Harris, superintendent of Beef Cattle Operations, involve anything to do with the care and maintenance of the beef cattle facilities and the beef cattle themselves. Harris teaches labs when needed and also oversees the Angus Beef Student Enterprise.
While Harris enjoys his position, the job comes with many challenges. Recently, those challenges involve the flooding in Berry’s pastures. Out of Berry’s 11 pastures, only four of them are not saturated with water when there is an excess amount of rainfall. The majority are still usable, but they may be halfway flooded or more.
The beef and dairy units are prepared for excess rainfall and move the cattle to areas where the flooding will not affect them as much. While this is helpful to an extent, there is now the problem of limited space for cattle. The more dense the population, the more problems can arise with disease.
“The flooding can affect the cattle in numerous ways,” Harris said. “One big thing is the amount of time the flood waters stay in the pasture. The longer they stay in the pasture, the more likely it is to kill the grass. If it kills the grass then you have less forage for the cattle and the expense of trying to reestablish that grass.”
Flood waters can also bring new bacteria into their environment, and the cows can pick this up, causing sickness. Mastitis is a common form of bacteria that affects the dairy cows, and there is currently a peak in mastitis at the Berry Dairy.
Junior Cassidy Hardy knows how great an impact this bacteria is through her work as cow vaccinations manager and shift leader at the dairy.
“Right now we have a peak in mastitis because the girls will calve in one of our pastures that floods,” Hardy said. “They come into the barn and start giving milk, and that’s when you can tell if they have mastitis, because of the discoloration and texture of their milk. They can be treated with an antibiotic, but their milk has to be withheld, so we lose money for a little bit.”
Other problems with flooding include debris that can damage fences and equipment when mowing pastures if it’s not cleaned up properly.
The dairy’s hay barn recently experienced a rise in water coming into the barn. Students were able to move and save about 90 percent of the hay, but the remaining hay was saturated and lost.
Despite the rainy conditions, students and staff have to feed their animals. In extreme conditions, Harris has witnessed water on the road to the Rollins Center so high that the center could not be accessed. This results in students getting trapped.
“In the past, when the road at Rollins has been covered with water, the students have had to use boats to come across,” Harris said.
Hardy and other student workers once had to retrieve equipment that was left in the pastures during a flood.
“We have automatic refillable water troughs in each of our pastures,” Hardy said. “We needed to recover the top and bottom since it flooded and was floating in the middle of the flooded waters. So we had to go retrieve it in a canoe.”
While students and staff enjoy these fun moments at work, they do realize all the troubles that come with the flood waters.
Despite the challenges, Hardy and her co-workers continue to pour their hearts into their work because of the passion and love for their daily responsibilities.
“I just love being around the cows and seeing their personalities, they make me laugh,” Hardy said. “I enjoy knowing that you’re taking care of something and doing it well. I take pride in helping a happy animal.”