Just outside the back doors of the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine, where classrooms, labs and lockers line the hallways, 80 scenic acres are home to pigs, chickens, sheep, goats and cattle and a learning laboratory for veterinary students.
The Animal Teaching Unit, as the working farm is called, is a dynamic space for students to learn about husbandry, production management, and procedures commonly used in animal production. Few other colleges, if any, have anything like it.
Part of what makes it special is that students can observe and work with a range of agricultural animals on a real farm, all within walking distance of their regular classrooms. What happens under the farm’s historic silos is also a treasured memory for CVM graduates.
“There’s nothing else like NC State,” says Danielle Mzyk, a Chapel Hill native and alumnus who earned both her vet degree and a doctorate. in college pharmacology. “I visited many campuses before coming to NC State. As a student, I could go to class in the morning and then watch a foal being born over lunch. I wanted to build a future as a co-ed vet and TAU gave me that opportunity.
Generations of veterinarians have benefited from the unique presence of the Animal Teaching Unit.
“I’m a milker,” says Jaime Calcago, a second-year vet student who also works on the farm staff. “I milk 18-20 dairy cows a day, clean up afterwards and drop their post-milking feed. Working at TAU is the kind of experience working with large animals that I couldn’t get anywhere else. It’s amazing to see a dairy cow give birth. I really learned about life from that.
Additionally, an ambitious 11-year master plan completed in 2017 calls for upgrades and improvements that will ensure TAU continues to be a vibrant and relevant part of veterinary education for generations to come.
“The TAU is a big part of our overall strength,” says Kate Meurs, Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine. “A six-phase renovation and improvement plan will improve our practices and modernize our teaching. It’s part of our continuous innovation approach to staying at the forefront of veterinary medicine.
The TAU is a big part of our overall strength,” says Kate Meurs, Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine. “A six-phase renovation and improvement plan will improve our practices and modernize our teaching.
The first phase of the plan began in November when the college opened a new $5.5 million dairy barn that will allow students to learn the latest food safety and security practices as well as a modern approach to animal wellbeing.
Students have on-farm labs in their first three years and conduct tours as part of their senior rotations in their fourth year. The teaching animal unit has six sub-units that reflect the major groups of food animals.
“This includes experiments with pigs, poultry, sheep, goats, beef cattle and dairy cows,” says Sara Beth Routh, director of the unit. “The new dairy facility will add a much needed upgrade, meeting current industry standards to provide a safe learning environment for students, a safe working environment for staff and improved housing for animals.
In addition to assigned academic activities, some students gain more hands-on experience working as farm staff.
“TAU plays a huge role in educating our student employees,” says Routh, “by providing increased hands-on learning about best animal husbandry practices. This includes, but is not limited to, daily care, low-stress handling, animal behavior, milking of dairy cows, birth assistance, administration of medications and on-site species-associated techniques.
For North Carolina State veterinary students, the unit is more than just their professional training. It’s also about creating memories.
“In the spring, it was a great stress reliever to be able to snuggle up with the kids during a break,” says Myzk.
For Myzk and so many others, it’s those little things as well as the big things they experienced at TAU that shape their professional lives today. Myzk now works at an animal practice that sees both pets and farm animals in a small Wisconsin town.
Associate Dean Laura Nelson adds that having the Animal Teaching Unit right outside the college door is an incredible asset not only for students, but for the profession as a whole.
“With our location in the middle of a rapidly growing metropolitan area, the opportunity for our students to spend time learning on a working farm that is on our campus from the first year of their program is great,” says Nelson. , director of Academic Affairs. “The TAU experience has changed career trajectories. These careers, in turn, had great impacts on the veterinary profession.