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view from the top : Numerous trails of Mount Naomi lead through some of the most spectacular alpine scenery found in the intermountain west./ Photo by Melissa Kamis
Today's word on journalism

Tuesday, September 7, 2004

"The First Amendment gives everyone -- including nuts -- free speech,
but free speech has a purpose: that the people may judge for themselves
and bury the nuts with indignation. We fail our founding fathers if we
let blowhards rage on talk radio, in little magazines and in nasty
books without delivering counterattacks.

   -- Barron's, Aug. 9, 2004 (Thanks to alert WORDster John Mollwitz)

Getting black and blue (and brown) at the Animal Science Farm

By Melissa Dymock

March 19, 2004 | The appointment was for 10 a.m. but there was a steer that needed to be loaded in a trailer so we didn't start for another half-hour. On a farm, appointments are only suggestions.

I stood waiting by the trailer when Parl Galloway walked up. "You weighed the steer yet?" he asked.

Here, everyone is considered help, even the visitors.

The animals always come first, people second. On the Animal Science Farm at Utah State University, this is no different

Galloway, head of the farm, has been here 20 years and raising these animals has definitely become a science.

This particular morning was no different. The 500 beef animals had already been fed for a few hours and the food was rapidly disappearing. The breath out of the steers' mouths rose up gently only to disappear into the fog. They ate their breakfast greedily, only a few jerked back as he walked past within a few feet. Most cared little for him while there was hay and grain before them.

At midmorning the frozen fog still covered much of the farm. The frost glittered in the air from the rising sun trying to peek through the dense frozen, mist. All the roads were covered by 2-day-old snow too hard packed and frozen to plow.

The steer being loaded in the trailer was being torn away from breakfast and he wasn't pleased at all. The steer ran forward for a bit and then turned back looking for enough space to dodge between the two men. He's large enough to plow through the men. The only thing keeping him from bolting through is the waving of their arms and their yells of "hey, hey." The steer stared at them, weighing his chances of getting through. But their antics are enough intimidation; he turned and strode through the gate into the corral. The rest of the animals ate, unconcerned about his plight.

The corrals were deep with mud and manure, making it hard to run after a stubborn steer. Galloway and another worker had to run more like rabbits, as with each step their boots sank back into the mud, requiring them to hop back out. The steer was finally penned and forced into the rusty metal chutes. The chutes are about 5 feet high and 2 or 3 feet wide, giving the cow no choice but to move forward into the squeeze chute.

Galloway's face was weathered red by the cold and wind, piercing blue eyes stand out. He has a ready smile that reaches his eyes. He was dressed in layers to fight the cold. No farmer is completely dressed in the winter without faded, Wall or Carhart, tan insulated overalls. The overalls are like tent canvas letting in very little of the wet. The bottoms were dyed a dark brown from the constant sludge through manure and mud with enough water mixed in to make it the consistency of oatmeal.

"There's a fine line between having too many clothes on and not enough," Galloway said. "Too many clothes on and you're dead by noon because you can't pack it around." To little, you're froze and you don't want to go out."

He doesn't look much like the English teacher he was for five years before he left teaching to work on a farm.

The chute looked more like an invention out mad science lab than a necessary tool in a barn. It was 5 or 6 feet tall and about 6 feet long with gates at both ends. Galloway manned the front gate holding it open for just long enough for the steer to stick his head through. As the head comes through he released one rope that shuts the first gate around the steer's neck. There is an opening that kept the steer from moving forward or his head back. At the same instant Galloway pulled another rope that squeezes in the sides of the chute against the steer, preventing him from squirming around too much. While all this was going on his worker pulled closed the back gate. It took only a matter of seconds but the timing had to be right or the steer would have broke through the front and the process of running him in would have to start all over again.

The sides of the chute resemble prison bars. The space between the bars enables workers to reach through to give the animals necessary shots, check-ups and any medical attention that may be required. It is comparable to a mother holding a child in her arms for those early check-ups when fear of doctor outweighs the benefits. All this steer needed, however, was to be weighed. The bottom of the chute is an electronic scale. This steer came in at about 1,300 pounds. Within a matter of seconds he was pushed back out, onto the loading ramp and into the trailer.

Only one steer was being loaded that morning. The main focus on the farm right now is calving season. Galloway said the season began Jan. 20. A little over 200 cows wait to deliver. Only one calf had come so far, leaving 199 to go.

With temperatures dipping below zero each night this seems an unlikely time for calving season, but Galloway said the cold doesn't affect them much. They lose more calves later in the season after the frost when diseases are more prolific. They don't have many problems when it's only 10 below. It's when the temperature reaches 20 to 30 below zero that things get difficult. Two winters ago they lost quite a few calves. Galloway said they can save them from freezing to death after birth but with the cold they don't have the energy to get up and nurse.

"This winter's not really cold, it's not been 20 below," Galloway said.
Brett Bowman also works out at the farm. He is a professor at Utah State, teaching carcass evaluation and livestock judging in the fall. With calving season there isn't time for him to teach in the spring. He said they go out checking cows every two hours during the day but they still can't get to all the herds every day.

The farm has fields all over the Cache Valley and in other areas as well. They run cattle in Panguitch, Bear River and west Logan. They don't keep the cows and calves at the headquarters of the Animal Science Farm in Wellsville. With the cows spread out this requires the workers to spend extra time checking them.

"We're in the truck a lot but not enough time in this cold. We get there quicker than we want to," Galloway said.

There are always extra problems to deal with in the winter. With temperatures rarely getting above freezing, water turns into solid ice in a hurry. Making it almost impossible to break through to water. Troughs must be checked regularly to make sure the trough heater is working. The farms in west Logan have warm springs and Galloway said they try to take a lot of cattle there in the winter.

Work at the farm in the outdoors isn't for everyone.

"You have to be psychologically tough. I hired two kids one time and they worked for a week," Galloway said. He gets a lot of college kids that want to work on a farm and in the outdoors but they find out that they just don't like that type of labor.

"It takes a certain breed to work outside especially in the winter," Galloway said.

A good place to get warm is the pig barn.

"Pigs are fussy, they like the warm," Galloway said.

Their barn is kept at a temperature in the high sixties, with heat lamps on all the newborns in the nursery. The manure in their pens drops through slats in the floor to ease with cleaning. These pigs never wallow in the mud. There is none.

Manure disposal is another reason Galloway tends to go through workers quickly.

"People don't like to spread manure," he said.

This job definitely isn't for the faint of heart. In January the Bear River Health Department classified the air quality of Logan as "very unhealthy."

The Salt Lake Tribune reported on Jan. 23 that Cache County residents should take precautions when outside.

On Jan.16 The Associated Press said the Cache County Advisory reported "that sensitive people…should remain indoors. Everyone else should avoid all physical activity outdoors."

But their were more than 700 animals depending on Galloway, Bowman and a few others for their feed and maintenance, who don't care much for pollution warnings.

"Sure there's some truth to [the warnings], but we kind of laugh at it and still go out," Galloway said. Life continues each day for the farm workers and the animals.

The Animal Science Farm is on U.S. Highway 89-91 in the south part of the Cache Valley in Wellsville. It's just north of the Caine Dairy.


Copyright 1997-2004 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-1000
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