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Students Assist with Births in "Lamb Watch" Course

March 5, 2014
Contacts: 

Sara Gavin 301-405-9235

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Although winter may seem never-ending this year, the births of 29 lambs so far at the University of Maryland's Campus Farm provide a reassuring sign that spring will eventually arrive in College Park.

Lamb WatchA course offered every spring semester popularly known as "Lamb Watch," teaches animal science students the pre- and post-natal care of ewes and lambs through both lectures and direct, hands-on involvement in the birthing process.

"It's in the barn doing the watches and lamb parenting where they now use the book knowledge and skills and actually take care of our flock – with lots of supervision," says Sarah Balcom, who leads the lecture portion of the course. Campus Farm manager Crystal Caldwell teaches the lab portion and says students play a large role in all the lambs' births.

Students are paired up into teams of "lamb parents," who work together to care for their ewe prior to her lambing. They then watch and assist with their lamb's birth, name their lambs, and assist with post-natal care of both the lambs and ewes.

Students perform a total of nine physicals on their lambs after they are born, allowing them to identify and resolve any problems that may arise. It is the closest thing to a true farm experience that the university can offer, Balcom says.

"Once the lambs are born, you have to go to the barn every day for a week to make sure the ewe and lambs are healthy and doing well," freshman animal science major Jessica Wooleyhand says. "It requires a lot of effort, but it is an amazing responsibility."

Lamb WatchThe lambs are certainly cute, as they follow students around and jump on their boots. When the weather becomes warmer this spring, the lambs and ewes will be outside, and any student walking on Farm Drive will be able to see the sheep grazing in the pasture.

Senior agriculture and resource economics major Christine Bernstein says she has become attached to her lambs. "I wish I had a farm because there are several that I would want to take home with me," she says.

Not surprisingly, Lamb Watch is one of the most popular courses in the animal science department, says senior animal science major Kayla Miner. "Animal Science students love to apply what they are learning in the classroom right away, and lamb watch provides that opportunity."

In total, students and faculty are looking forward to the births of more than 30 lambs at the Campus Farm this spring.