When Katie Williams was an undergraduate student in the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, she turned an internship with Herr Angus Farm into a part-time job during the fall and spring semesters of her senior year. Now, after graduating in May, Williams has turned that part-time job into a full-time position working as a herdsperson at the farm in Nottingham, Pennsylvania.
Williams explained that as a herdsperson, she is very involved in the animal husbandry side of the farm, responsible for checking the cattle on a daily basis to ensure that they are healthy and behaving normally, following their usual eating and drinking routines and moving soundly.
“I also assist with administering vaccinations and medications according to Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) standards, breeding, embryo transfer, cattle handling, record keeping, feeding and nutrition programs, and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) quarantine cattle for export,” said Williams.
Even though her official title is herdsperson, her responsibilities also include assisting in any of the tasks necessary for upkeep of the farm. “This can range anywhere from basic fence line, equipment and pasture maintenance to harvesting hay and haylage — a fermented, nutritious grass feed that is stored in our silos — for the winter,” said Williams.
Williams said that while this full-time position did not come about simply because of the internship, her experience did provide her hands-on experience that had an impact on the eventual job offer.
“As an intern, I was exposed to the cattle handling, cattle management and overall farm management that gave me the ability to complete tasks independently and be relied upon for numerous responsibilities on a daily basis,” said Williams. “I did not realize that I was training for my eventual full-time position when I was an intern but all of the experiences I gained during that time qualified me to become a herdsperson, even if I had not been offered a job at Herr Angus Farms.”
Williams said that most of her mornings begin in the feed room, where she has a brief meeting and goes over the day’s tasks and then feeds the cattle.
“Most mornings I am out riding through the pastures either on the Gator or on horseback, checking to make sure that all of the cows are healthy,” said Williams. “Oftentimes we have to bring in a group of cattle for vaccinations, tagging, breeding, pregnancy checks, or for sorting. If this is the case, we usually try to do this before lunch and before the heat of the day really picks up.”
The after-lunch activities are devoted to things like mowing, fence line maintenance and harvesting the aforementioned hay and haylage.
“Harvest days are always quite busy since it is very dependent on the weather and we have to make the most of dry weather when we can,” said Williams.
Williams said the job is a perfect fit as it combines two of her favorite things: animals and being outdoors.
“Riding through the pastures in the early morning just after the crack of dawn is my favorite part of the day. I call it my ‘morning Zen’ when I’m out doing this because it is so peaceful and relaxing to see the cattle happily grazing,” said Williams.
Williams also said that having a full-time job lined up after graduation relieved a lot of the stress that usually comes with job searching and that she is very thankful for being offered the opportunity with such advanced notice.
She does admit, though, that transitioning from student life to a career has its challenges and she is still learning to balance everything.
As for how the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources helped prepare her for her future career, Williams said, “One of the things I enjoy the most is being able to understand how things function and why they work the way they do. The education and experiences I received at CANR enable me to understand little things, such as why certain feeds are used and how they are digested in the rumen, or the science behind pasture rotation and plant biology. I find it very fulfilling being able to use my classroom education to continue learning out in the field on a daily basis and I owe many thanks to the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.”
Article by Adam Thomas