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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Teaching and Research Animals Keep NMSU's Animal Science Staff Busy

LAS CRUCES - When your research and teaching program depends on the health of nearly 2,000 head of cattle, 513 ewes, 318 lambs, 95 horses, 55 pigs and a smattering of boars, rams, sows and goats, you should expect some long days and late nights. That's the case for Bobby Rankin, New Mexico State University's animal and range sciences department head, and his crew of about 17 faculty and staff members and 14 student workers.

With nearly $1.3 million worth of livestock located at the Animal Science Farm on NMSU's main campus, the Horse Farm in Mesilla Park and at three off-campus sites, Rankin and his livestock supervisors never know when they might get an emergency call. They respond to cows having trouble calving, animals being used in unseemly fraternity pranks and sheep cruising the campus.

"We've found animals wandering all the way to Holy Cross Retreat," said Gary Byrum, livestock supervisor of the campus farm. That's about two and one-half miles from campus in Las Cruces.

Recently, Rankin even had to deal with stolen horses and a burned hay barn. On a day-to-day basis, he needs to make sure the animals are healthy and well-fed. "I depend on the initiative of our dedicated faculty and staff to use and teach practices that ensure the welfare of our animals," he said.

The department buys about 1,000 tons of alfalfa for feed each year plus grain and other supplements. Pastures are planted for grazing in the winter and spring. Rankin also monitors sales of the animals and meat produced through the department's programs, with proceeds going back into the operation.

For Rankin, this is all part of the business of running an animal science program that offers plenty of hands-on experience for students and research subjects for faculty. "We run an integrated operation from conception to consumer," he said. "Our program offers courses and experience that reflect students' needs.

For many students in the region, NMSU's animal science program is the only place they can learn everything from general animal husbandry, animal nutrition and genetics to meat science and dairy, beef, horse, and sheep and wool production.

We also offer equitation classes that teach students to ride horses safely and properly," Rankin said. "In many cases,

Rankin said. Research animals in particular studies need to live under the same environmental conditions and be fed and watered alike.

Having animals live on campus in the middle of a city also creates special concerns, Rankin said. "At the Animal Science Farm, we have to clean up more often to cut down on odor and flies."