To provide a comprehensive, hands-on learning experience for students studying Animal Science, one element is critically important: access to animals. Hunterdon County Vocational School District (HCVSD) is lucky to have a strong relationship with Forest Bluff Farm in Clinton, which has provided the district’s Animal Science program with such access. The district recently demonstrated its appreciation for Forest Bluff Farm and owner Chris Bishop by naming the farm its 2023 Business Partner of the Year.
Students gain valuable skills and insights into various aspects of animal care and reproduction by interacting with pregnant ewes the school leases from Forest Bluff Farm. The ewes are bred on the farm and then they travel in January to HCVSD’s Califon Campus, where Animal Science students are responsible for their daily care.
The students perform tasks such as daily feeding and husbandry and ultrasounding monthly. Students also update vaccinations on the ewes, are present for the lambings when possible and monitor weights of the lambs daily. In the spring, students even welcome visiting students from Essex County Schools of Technology to work together to ear tag, draw blood for Scrapies testing, and vaccinate the lambs. Such hands-on activities go beyond traditional classroom learning, enabling students to apply their knowledge in real-life scenarios.
Instructors say the leasing agreement with Bishop and his farm is a crucial component of the program’s success.
“Without the support and resources provided by the farm, it would be challenging to offer such a comprehensive and engaging learning experience for the students,” said Taryn Romanczak, lead instructor for the Animal Science program. “Projects like these are instrumental in preparing students for future careers in animal science and related fields. The exposure to practical skills, as well as the opportunity to develop a herd health plan for pregnant animals, adds a practical dimension to their education that is often irreplaceable.”
Students have now helped care for the ewes for two years, and the experience is becoming one that both current and prospective students talk about.
“We are grateful for the interaction between local industries and our programs. We are especially grateful for the hands-on experience that Forest Bluff Farm has been able to provide for our students for the past two years,” said Dr. Todd Bonsall, HCVSD superintendent. “The lambing experience is now an annual highlight of the Animal Science program.”