Animals and staff thrive on UDs farm
He milks cows on the University of Delaware’s farm in Newark.
Gouge is one of seven employees who care for the animals that live on the UD farmland behind Worrilow Hall and past a knot of dairy barns, down dirt lanes and across Route 72.
They shear sheep, collect eggs, grow hay and feed hundreds of chickens, cows, horses and sheep. They also help birth new lambs, foals and dairy and beef calves.
A typical day for Gouge is milking about 100 cows twice a day.
While other employees deal with an occasional errant copy machine, farm assistants deal with manure, mud, the weather, chickens and an occasional 1,700-pound cow that doesnt want to go where its supposed to.
I dont know how you can work in a closed building all day. Sometimes, I have to go over to a building for two hours for a meeting and its like total claustrophobia, Scott Hopkins, farm superintendent, said. Id rather be in the mud or the rain than inside a building.
The best thing is that we get to do what we always wanted to do all our lives, but we have some really nice University benefits, and we get time-and-a-half [for overtime], Gouge said. Farmers dont get time-and-a-half.
All around, the UD farm is more Microsoft than Mr. Greenjeans. Electronic farm gates read the computer tags on cows ears. Farm assistants keep exacting statistics for academic research projects. For 20 years, recordkeeping has been computerized. Farmers can glance at a screen and instantly determine which dairy cows are profitable producers.
Richard Morris, the dairy manager, can rattle off statistics like how much feed the average dairy cow eats in a day (88 pounds), or how much water it drinks (60 gallons), or how much milk it will produce (11 gallons).
The milk is sold to the Land O Lakes producers cooperative in Minnesota, and it may be purchased locally at Cumberland Farms, WaWa Food Markets and as cheese at Fierro & Sons in Wilmington.
The two collect the eggs that go to the schools. They also set up experiments for agricultural research. And, every day, they feed about 800 chickens in the cinder block and aluminum-sided poultry houses that dot the acres behind the Girl Scouts headquarters on Route 896.
To keep himself entertained with no one but chickens to talk to, Chaillou said sometimes he names the hens, like Sidewinder, who hops out of the nest and sashays back and forth when he retrieves her eggs.
In the dairy barn, workers have favorites, too, but the cows there are known by their numbers. As in, We need to catch 378, Morris said.
The daily to-do list for farm assistant Larry Armstrong, who works with the sheep and beef cattle, might include shearing, pitching hay for winter feed or helping birth a calf.
The students like to come down and see the births, but, once youve seen it a couple hundred times, its just part of the job, Morris said.
The day-to-day farm operation might include an impromptu lick up the back from a happy dairy cow. Occasionally, its more complicated, like the night some dairy cows broke through a fence, wandered to the railroad tracks and shut down Amtraks Northeastern Corridor for a few hours while farm assistants armed only with flashlights hurried back to campus to search for black-and-white Holsteins in the dark.
Hopkins couldnt single out a favorite part of working on the farm: Its very enjoyable to work with the animals. Its very enjoyable to work with the students and help them gain a better understanding of agriculture. And, I like helping the professors with their research and hopefully advancing agriculture.
Article by Kathy Canavan
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