What It Takes: The Campus Farm

From Wrangling Lamb-Stealing Sheep to Collecting Stomach Fluid From Cows, Staff and Students Carry On UMD’s Agricultural Tradition

Campus Farm Manager Megan McLean teaches a lamb how to nurse from a box with formula. Five ewes have had triplets so far this season—an unusually high number—so they’re unable to nurse all of the lambs.

Image Credit: John T. Consoli

February 23, 2023 Karen Shih

There was a time when students didn’t outnumber livestock in College Park by much, back around 1900 when the landscape was largely farmland, dotted with just a few buildings. Today, a smaller Campus Farm, nestled between the Cambridge Community, the Physical Sciences Complex and the Xfinity Center, remains a tangible connection to the university’s origins as the Maryland Agricultural College.

Home to sheep, cows and horses year-round, as well as chickens, pigs and other livestock that cycle in and out throughout the academic year, the 4.5-acre farm is where students learn to groom and halter horses or assist with births during each spring’s “Lamb Watch” class.

These hands-on opportunities are possible due to dedicated staff, student workers and volunteers, who show up rain or shine, 365 days a year. Farm Manager Megan McLean and farm crew member Lilly Rainey ’22, an animal science major, share how they manage daily care for the animals, why crayons are surprisingly important to their work and how having cows with holes in their sides can save lives.

McLean: Our main purpose is to serve animal science students. For example, we have two big classes in the fall, ANSC103, with around 100 students total. They’re here most weeks. We help teach them basic animal identification and handling: How do you catch and hold a sheep? How do you lead and halter a horse?

We usually have five or six horses, two cows and 25 sheep (lambs add more). Then we’ll bring in pigs, beef or dairy cattle, or chickens for a week or two, depending on what the classes need.

We hire seven students for farm crew, then have another 10 volunteers. Many are animal science majors, but anyone can apply. We also have three staff members: myself, an assistant farm manager and an ag technician who is part-time. In the application, we let people know that you have to be available for some holidays. It doesn’t matter what the weather is or what the holiday is—the animals still need care. That’s the reality of animal science.

Read full story in Maryland Today