Cows to remain on St. Paul campus

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Animal coordinator Bill Hansen’s future is like the giant bull statues anchored on the lawn of the St. Paul campus – not changing anytime soon.

Hansen starts his days at 2 a.m. working with the University’s dairy cattle and for the last 12 years he’s made sure the 135 cows are fed and milked.

Although the St. Paul campus is in the process of making some major changes, Hansen said life on the farm will continue as usual.

A group of University faculty members is looking to make the St. Paul campus more vital by adding restaurants and facilities for students, but Kate VandenBosch, one of the group’s leaders, said the new amenities will not take away from space that is devoted to the University’s livestock.

VandenBosch said she was not aware of any plans to reduce the number of livestock, but wise decisions need to be made in the future.

“The main point is that there needs to be good framework in all of our facilities and you could consider animals part of that,” VandenBosch said.

VandenBosch also said the steering committee in charge of making the changes believes it’s important to preserve the agricultural fields surrounding the campus.

The fields are important to the University, because most of the grain grown in the fields is fed to the livestock on the St. Paul campus, Jim Linn, head of the department of animal science, said.

Linn said having livestock on campus is crucial to the department’s success, and reducing the number of animals could hurt students’ chances for hands-on experience.

“We do really have the minimum number of animals that we can function with at the current time,” Linn said. “We use animals heavily in our teaching programs and various classes.”

Hansen said over the years he’s seen colleges and faculty members play musical chairs, but for him it’s business as usual.

“My goal is to take care of the animals,” Hansen said. “I can’t worry about the politics of it.”

Hansen grew up on a farm, and has worked with animals all his life, but said many of the students he works with weren’t born with green thumbs.

“I get a lot of city kids in here that have never experienced handling a cow before,” Hansen said.

In addition to serving as a place for students to receive hands-on training, the campus provides resources for research experiments.

Graduate student Mary Raeth-Knight is proposing a research trial that would test the effects of adding glycerol into calves’ diets. Glycerol is a byproduct of fuel made from vegetable oils.

Raeth-Knight and her colleagues plan to put glycerol into the calves’ diet and then monitor their growth rate for 70 days, to see if it could be used as a milk replacer.

Raeth-Knight said it would be difficult to do research for many graduate students without cattle on campus.

Hansen said the hands-on experience is also valuable for students who have spent time on farms before.

“It gives them a break from their classes,” Hansen said. “It brings a little bit of home back to them.”

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