Oct 092011
Authors: Sarah Fenton

Junior animal science major Lindsey Bowker never thought she would be sticking her hand inside of a cow’s rectum.

But Bowker learned to never say never late last month when a group of CSU students got down and dirty at Y Cross Ranch in order to perform rectal palpations on more than 100 pregnant cows.

Rectal palpation occurs when a person plunges their arms down a pregnant cow’s rectum in hopes of feeling the contours of it’s fetus.

While the process may sound gross to some, the truth is that it is invaluable to the medical care of the cow. In addition to being able to estimate how far along the soon-to-be mother cow is, rectal palpation gives important details about the health of the cow and her fetus.

Even so, it isn’t hard to imagine why the typical CSU student may consider this job less than appetizing.

“I coach a high school debate team and whenever I describe these things to them they think it’s really weird,” said sophomore equine and animal sciences major Ben Wurz.

While many people may wonder whythese students agreed to do the job, it’s simple for students like Wurz and Bowker. By receiving hands-on training, they feel their education is enhanced in a way not seen in the classroom.

“I don’t think there is any possible way a teacher could put up slides and say ‘here’s what you’re supposed to do,’” said Kim Sterkel, a junior animal sciences major. “They can tell you what you’re going to feel, but until you actually experience it, you have no idea what’s going on.”

It’s for this reason that CSU professors Jack Whittier and Robert Mortimer invited students up to Y Cross, a 56,000-acre working Hereford cattle ranch located in Horse Creek, Wyo.

“The purpose of students coming out here isn’t to train them in how to palpate a cow, it’s to give them a deeper appreciation for animal sciences,” Mortimer said.

Y Cross is under joint ownership of both CSU and the University of Wyoming, allowing students from the two schools to develop skills in ranch management and animal science research.

According to Y Cross managers Manny and Annette Monserratte, watching students develop an appreciation for animals is what drives them to continue operating the ranch.

So, while taking care of livestock doesn’t include perks like a shiny office or personalized parking spot, for the people who do it, ranch management yields a satisfaction that can only be delivered by a great passion and love for the job.

“I believe the reason for that is because a cow and her fetus are life,” Bowker said. “When you actually get to see and feel where this life starts it has an effect on you.”

“Not everybody has the stomach to be able to do what I and the other students did that day.

Experiences like this cause people to have more respect for the animal, and become a little closer to nature. It was the greatest experience,” Bowker added.

Collegian writer Sarah Fenton can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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