Since its inception, the CAPS Veterinary Medicine course has been striving to give students hands-on and meaningful experiences with animal health. The challenge has been how to provide these real experiences to students who have not yet obtained their undergraduate or veterinarian degrees. We value our tours and site visits at various facilities, however the students were passive learners, not making decisions about the care of animals.
This all changed when Bayer Animal Health (Shawnee, KS) granted the Veterinary class $30,000 over three years. That money, combined with the generosity and mentorship of Swickard Family Farm, allowed students to start a small-scale hog operation.
Absolute GAME CHANGER for the class! Students went from simple observers to making all of the decisions about care of the pigs. They determine feed rations (nutrition), sanitation, parasite prevention plan, and more. There were ethical discussions about the food industry and potential culling of our sounder (herd) that could not have been simulated without having our actual pigs to consider.
After finishing feeder pigs the first year, the students expanded the operation by purchasing two pregnant sows. They determined pre-natal care and made preparations for birth (farrowing). We went from two to seventeen total pigs overnight. Students were able to participate in multiple live births, piglet processing and vaccinations. Student Rebecca Bryant remembers, “Throughout the year we were able to watch the sow’s pregnancy and pig labor. This was a very fun day, getting to rush out to the farm to watch and aid in farrowing. One of my favorite parts with this project was getting to watch as the piglets grew up, to see their personalities change as they got older and how they interact with each other.”
Additionally, students researched nutritional requirements for the lactating sows and continued care through weaning and on through finishing. Students had the opportunity to market the pork and participate in agri-business as our goal was to become self-sustaining to fund the following year of hogs. This past summer, the sows were artificially inseminated to start our current school year sounder.
There have been so many opportunities for authentic learning throughout the project. Students embrace animal care in the pig model which they can apply to other species. Student Sydney Pederson says, “we had many surprises during this project including a leg mass on one of the piglets which turned into a lesson on fluid pockets (it was a seroma). Without Bayer and their generous donations none of this would have been possible and we are grateful for the once in a lifetime experiences they funded.”
Student Andia Cain remarks, “Being able to learn about (farrowing, nutrition, health) in the classroom and then go out and apply it hands on was a learning experience I will never forget. We got the opportunity to vaccinate the baby piglets and castrate (the boars), things that I never imagined I would be able to do through a class in high school. None of this would have been possible without the support and generous donation from Bayer.”
Bayer’s support is not limited to the pig project. Since the CAPS Veterinary Medicine course began Fall 2014, Bayer has been an integral part of the learning. Bayer professionals have offered a challenge projects for our students to encourage them to learn about industry while digging into a real problem. The result of Bayer’s engagement are students who are well-equipped to pursue careers in animal health on multiple levels. Thank you Bayer.