Dordt College News

Students play cowboy and more on the range

August 17, 2011

Dr. Duane Bajema wants his students to be independent—to learn that education is a lifelong process requiring curiousity and taking responsibility.

So, each year in his animal science lab, he assigns students to learn something about livestock that is new to them—something they hadn’t known or experienced before.

He always getssome creative responses and reports. This year’s class was no different.

Seven students who come from a variety of different backgrounds and geographic locations went home with Rob Logterman, a freshmen from Lakeview, South Dakota—ranch country.  They decided to help Rob and his family brand calves, something they’d never done or seen before, to fulfill their assignment. They were also required to do some research into the topic or activity they chose.

Derek Grace and Parker Merritt get their first shot at branding livestock during a weekend trip home with fellow student Rob Logterman.“They weren’t going out to the ranch to just play ‘cowboy’,” says Bajema, who had to approve each proposed activity.

The event turned out to be more educational than expected. Students saw families and neighbors work together in ways they had not seen before. They rode horses (some for the first time), rounded up calves, wrestled calves, branded calves, and had an Easter dinner with Rob’s family. They had a good time socially, culturally, and educationally.

“Listening to them talk about their time in South Dakota ranch country almost made it sound like a new cross-cultural experience!” says Bajema.

“My goal in going to South Dakota was to compare how cattle are processed differently in feed lots and pasture land,” says Parker Merritt from Mason City, Iowa.  “The limited experience I have is on a feed lot, which is much more contained and less labor intensive.”

Parker was surprised by how little ranching has changed over the years. The students and their hosts used horses to round up the cows and calves and put them into a round holding pen. They caught the calves by roping them.

“And because the ranch was on an Indian reservation, I also learned a great many cultural things in addition to ranching practices. I would have liked to stay a while longer but had to return for class,” he said.

“This was definitely a worthwhile assignment,” said Shannon Spargo from East Berne, New York. “I learned how to wrestle a calf and pin it to the ground while somebody branded it. I also rode a horse for the first time, which was an exciting experience for me personally.

“Part of the reason I loved helping brand and learning how to ride was to get a taste of the culture. I felt like I was thrown back into the days of the Wild West! It was neat to see the contrast between the ranching style of raising cattle, in which a couple thousand cows graze acres and acres of land, as opposed to the confinement systems around here. These are two very different mindsets and techniques of raising animals, but both deserve their proper place in our economy.”


Media Access: Download Word Version | High Resolution Image: 1