Category Archives: Equine/Horse

University of Delaware’s Research Farm

On November 4th, my class had the privilege of meeting the University of Delaware’s Newark farms superintendent, Scott Hopkins, who led the tour for us. We started the tour with an introduction to the dairy herd that supplies us our beloved UDairy ice cream. Scott Hopkins explained that the dairy herd was the most difficult and time consuming livestock on the farm due to the amount labor, time and research that goes into the herd. I found it really interesting to see how feed studies were conducted on a herd within by the use of ID collars that would sync with a specific feed bin that granted that specific cow access to its feed. This practice helps to conclude that technology plays a major role in livestock production. We then moved onto the poultry section of the farm where he explained to us why there were so many small shed-like houses. These are used for testing immunology and virolity amongst small flocks of birds. I think that this field of research is so fascinating and important, especially since the poultry industry is huge to the Delmarva area.  Next, we ventured to Webb Farm where we learned about the beef management practices, equine practices, as well as the sheep practices. Currently, the farm is tracking estrous in the ewes and are monitoring breedings and whether or not the ewes take. They track this by recording which ewes have the color coded chalk on their backs – marking a mounting by the ram – and crossing the presence of chalk with their estrous cycles. Scott was very informational and provided a lot of insight into how much work really goes into running a successful farming operation. He was well versed and had a tremendously wide amount of knowledge. I learned a lot on this trip and I hope to continue learning more about management practices throughout my time here at the University of Delaware

Newark Research Farm Fieldtrip

On Saturday our class took the last field trip to the research farm at Newark. Scott Hopkins gave us a tour of the farm which had livestock such as cows, sheep, and horses, and also fields for vegetable production. He explained how they have a section they grow basically organic so that students can experience how much more work it is to produce organic crops. It was amazing to see how the cows were trained to eat at the same place everyday and all the tests they did on them. The horse barn was also interesting because they built it to make the horses feel more comfortable. The farm is roughly 350 acres split between all the different sections, it was very well maintained and pretty. Despite the very chilly and windy  weather, it was a great experience. Mr. Hopkins was very passionate about his job and easily connected with the students. He had so much knowledge about so many topics and was so easy to talk to. This field trip was a great way to end.

Newark Farm Tour

This previous Saturday, I spent time at the University of Delaware farm. I was so intrigued to see how this farm is able to teach students hands-on techniques in a manner that is safe and understandable. I was so amazed at the fact that dairy cows are taught where they are to feed and they are smart enough to retain  that information and store it in their memories. I also really enjoyed how honest the farm manager was. He didn’t sugar-coat any type of information that we should know and made sure we knew to hold ourselves accountable for our actions. Walking through the farm was such a different experience than being on main campus. Everything is so calm, whereas main campus is always bustling. Seeing the mini versions of the chicken houses was also interesting, especially because we got to compare it to the full size version at Georgie’s farm. Overall, I very much enjoyed this field trip, especially the UDairy!

UD Newark Farm

Being a senior Pre-Veterinary Medicine major on the University of Delaware’s main campus in Newark, I have had the opportunity to learn, volunteer, and work on the UD Newark Farm on multiple occasions. However, I had never received a tour as thorough as the one given by Scott Hopkins, the farm superintendent.

I learned the most about UD’s Webb Farm, where we have horses, sheep, and beef cattle. I had always known we had horses on campus, but I never fully understood why or who interacted with them. Thanks to Scott, I now know of all the high tech and well thought out aspects that our horse stables and attached building have to offer. From a scale built into the floor, to the grated stalls instead of panels, or even to the potential for video cameras to watch foaling since horses can stop parturition if they get nervous or surprised, the possibilities are endless. It was also very interesting to learn that things we learn in classes, such as titrations in chemistry, can be utilized in the real world, specifically in horses to formulate a timeline of foaling.

Overall, it was great to explore my own campus more in-depth than I have had in the past. I found this experience to be a great example of the old motto, “You learn something new every day!”

Newark Farm Tour

Not only was this past Saturdays weather very cool, so was our field trip around the Newark farm. Scott Hopkins, the University of Delaware farm superintendent  gave us a fascinating tour of the Webb Farm.

We were fortunate enough to see the milking parlor and learn that dairy cows are the most challenging animal to care for on the farm. Growing up on my families dairy operation I was able to see and experience first hand how labor extensive taking care of dairy cows can be and understood greatly what Scott Hopkins was explaining.

Not only did we see the dairy operation but we saw the beef, sheep and equine facilities. The equine facility was rather new with a large classroom that was very versatile and could also be used a spot for more hands on learning such as artificial insemination, collecting semen or even having the option to do some horse therapy and therapeutic riding. We also learned about the extensive research projects being conducted, Mr. Hopkins favorite being forage research.

We ended our trip with a stop at UDairy creamery. This was for sure one of my favorite field trips because of all the research being done in such close proximity.

Moo-ve out of the way crops, livestock is here to stay!

This past Saturday (the 4th of November) was our last field trip, though I must say it was also my favorite. I think it was because it hits so close to home – we received a tour of our very own University of Delaware Newark farm led by the farm superintendent himself, Scott Hopkins!

After waiting for a good 15-20 minutes for our bus to arrive, Scott took matters into his own hands and started the tour on foot. We first went to the dairy farm and got to see the milking parlor, the cow feeding area and the building where the cows are kept, as well as a sneak peek at the baby cows! We received a brief rundown of the whole dairy operation – how the milking works, how the cows are fed, studies that are sometimes done on the cows, and a general overview on how the University of Delaware raises their livestock.

Eventually the bus caught up with us and took us down Farm lane to Webb farm. On the way there, we took a detour past the poultry houses where we learned what kind of research is done relating to chickens, and drove past the entomology center before arriving at our destination. We were then taken into the equine building, which is mostly used for equine science labs, but also doubles as a pretty convenient teaching room. One thing he told us while we were in the equine building that stood out to me was that horses have the ability to put their birthing on hold – if they are somehow uncomfortable or startled (whether it be from a class happening in the building or a train passing down the road) they can pause the process until they’re more relaxed and then continue as if nothing had happened! He told stories of students coming in to check on the horses, leaving for less than an hour, then coming back to a newborn foal! After this we took a brief look at the composting operation, then saw the barn where sheep are held. Mr. Hopkins briefly vented his frustrations about student workers who couldn’t seem to remember something as simple as closing a gate to make sure no animals got out, but quickly got back on track and told us all about sheep mating, using their wool for blankets, and the general care of the sheep. Last, but certainly not least, we were brought to the barn that houses the angus beef cattle. I never realized how curious animal’s cows are – while he was giving us an overview of their beef operation a cute group of three or four young cows made their way over to use to check us out and see what we were up to.

The trip ended back on south campus where Dr. Isaacs treated everyone in the class to their choice of sweets from UDairy, the University of Delaware’s creamery. Considering it didn’t get up past 50 degrees, many of us decided to get a comforting cup of hot chocolate or apple cider – myself included! This field trip was by far the most interesting one to me, mostly because many people don’t realize how much actual farming is done in the middle of Newark, DE, and being able to see it firsthand reinforced my decision of pursuing agriculture.

UD WEBB Farm Field Trip

Saturday’s field trip to Ud’s WEBB Farm was incredibly educational. I learned so much about my University that I did not know about after attending school here for three years. I had heard of Webb Farm before, but I had never been there before. I did not know that we had horses! I am very appreciative of the experience, even though it was a chilly day. I enjoyed seeing the baby cows, and learning about the AG technology that UD utilizes with their dairy cows. I did not realize how technologically advanced our farm is. I loved seeing where the cows get milked, and how the technology identifies each individual cow, and records all of their data automatically. I also was intrigued by the cows feeding system, and how they are trained to go to the same feeder every day. In addition to the dairy cows, we got to learn a lot about how UD maintains their chickens, horses, sheep, and beef cows. We learned a lot of very honest information in regards to farm management, and the challenges that technologic advances can present. We even were given access to view the compost section of the Farm, even though it is not as well developed as they would have liked it to be. As I was taking in the fall colors and scenery on the way to Webb Farm, we were informed that the trees we saw were all planted as a buffer. They are almost all native, and provide a variety of environmental benefits to the landscape surrounding the research farm. I was very happy to hear that, and it gave me a deeper appreciation of the landscape, knowing it’s impact on the environment! 

UD Webb Farm Field Trip

Although I was not able to attend the field trip this weekend, again due to vet school interviews and upcoming exams, I was able to get some information on it. After reading some posts and having my friends reiterate what happened, I find that the field trip was like a collection of all the knowledge I have gained through my ANFS classes.

The tour guide for the day talked about all the information we learn in the vast opportunities the farm offers UD students, such as volunteering, jobs, research, and labs. The guide talked about some of the feedstuffs. One of the most prominent ones being silages, which you can see being made in the silo bags around the farm. He also talked about the dairy cattle, who are a huge resource here for students. We learn how to milk cows properly, how to make ice, cream and about dietary research, typically dealing with the rumen.

Not only do we learn about dairy, but we learn about beef cattle when we are on the farm. They are not only important for learning about the beef industry, but in taking ANFS251, we learn about how to properly score the beef cattle on a range of 1-9. Another large animal we learn about are equines, or horses if you will. The horses here are a great learning opportunity, especially for scoring and behavior. Some of the ones we have at the UD farm are rescues or are too old to race any longer.

We also have sheep. My freshman year we learned a lot about sheep and how they act as a herd. We learned how they are flock animals and we have to herd them inside as such. Not only this but we learned how to separate them from the group as to trim the hooves (something I didn’t know was possible until coming to UD). One of the things I found interesting, that the guide retold, was how we can see if sheep have been mated using “crayons.” We check the females backends for coloring to see if the male had mated with her, as he has the coloration on his chest.

And one of the most notable forms of research, dealing with animals, on UD is chickens. Throughout the last semester, I often saw chickens being vaccinated and being tested. One of the places the students learned about on the trip was the poultry house and how we test for different variables and vaccines.

These are all really important aspects of the UD farm and wonderful opportunities. I am very thankful for all the wonderful teachers, and not just the ones you find in a classroom.

Delaware Horse Industry Guest Lecture

The Delaware horse racing industry is near and dear to my heart so I was very interested in the Horse Racing industry lecture by Mark Davis. To me the most interesting thing was part was that the drivers only make 5%. I personally have a friend that is a drives horse at dover downs, Harrington, Rosecroft and ocean downs and learning that he only makes 5% of the winnings was an eye opener. The fact that 46% of people who own horse have an income between $25,000 and $75,000 really amazes me. I fall into this category but it still surprises me that so many people who own horses fall into this category especially since most people own more than one. Knowing the cost of feed and upkeep its surprising how many people can afford to keep horses in that salary range. It was even more shocking was the statistic that less people own horse with an income of over 100,000 a year than the number of people who own horse who make less than $50,000 annually.

Mark Davis – Harness Racing Industry

Mark Davis gave the class a lecture on the Harness Racing Industry in Delaware and how it affects the economy of the state. It was interesting to hear about how slot machines have revitalized the industry and how the purses are divided up among the owners, trainers, drivers and veterinarians. I have grown up around race horses, my farm bordering a horse farm in Maryland that has had several winners, the most famous being Cigar. Harness racing however, was new to me. I am used to thoroughbred and steeplechase horses. It was refreshing to hear that there is another aspect of horse racing that people still enjoy.

The Horse Racing Industry in Delaware

In this presentation, Mark Davis discussed the horse racing industry and all it encompasses. I thought this to be a very an amusing topic to learn and discuss about seeing as I had little to no knowledge of it beforehand. There were many interesting facts throughout the entire presentation, pertaining to the horse racing industry for Delaware as well as then nation. We learned that the pari-mutuel wagering system in which people bet money on a specific outcome and all of the wagered money is placed into a pool to be divided amongst the winners was developed by a French man name Pierre Oller in the late 19th Century. More interesting is that the horse racing industry today has a direct economic a effect on the U.S. of $39 billion annually! I also enjoyed learning the difference of harness racing which uses a pull system compared to that of thoroughbred racing which uses a rider system. It was astonishing to hear how much money is generated in our economy through horse racing.

Mark Davis Horse Racing Industry

Delaware’s Executive Director of Harness Racing Commission, Mark Davis, came and spoke to us about the Horse Racing Industry in Delaware.  Horse racing is one of the oldest of all sports.

He explained to us the difference between Harness Racing horses and Thoroughbred horses. Harness Racing horses pull and race more than a thoroughbred does(3,000 races a year). A Thoroughbred horse races with a jockey and races less(700 races a year). The Delaware Horse Racing Redevelopment Act was passed in 1994 allowing slot machines at horse racing facilities. The horse industry has a direct economic effect on the U.S. of $39 billion annually. 46% of horse owners have an income of between $25,000 to $75,000.

UD Farm Field Trip

Our fourth and final field trip consisted of a short trip the the various farms run by the University of Delaware. Scott Hopkins who has worked at the University for many years was our guide for the day. Our first stop was at Webb farm where we stopped and visited the Equine building, which was currently empty as we learned the horses spend most of their time during the day grazing rather than being in their pens. I found it interesting how female horses can control child birth so freely and how the horse has progressively moved towards the title of companion along those of cats and dogs. After, we breifly visited the sheep and lambs as they mostly ate and chose to ignore our presence. After the visit to Webb farm we made our way over to UD’s dairy farm. Here we learned how dairy cows are trained to eat out of certain feed bins specifically for them. At the the end of the trip we were treated with ice cream from our very own UD creamery.

empty stable shown here as we learned about how the horses spend their time grazing
empty stable shown here as we learned about how the horses spend their time grazing

Mark Davis and the Horse Racing Industry

Mark Davis, Delaware’s Executive Director of Harness Racing Commission, came to talk to our class about the horse racing industry in Delaware.  This was very interesting to me because I do not know a lot about the horse racing industry but I am very interested in horses and learning about them.  Mark Davis told us that he did not start out thinking he was going to work with horses.  He graduated with a degree in environmental science and worked a few places before working with the Harness Racing Commission.

We learned about the history and background of the harness racing industry.  Horse racing’s total contribution to the Delaware economy was about $182 million in 2014, including $121 million of output and $61 million of input.  The horse industry has a direct economic effect on the U.S of $39 billion annually.   The horse racing industry has so many parts which means there are a lot of opportunities for jobs in this field.  We also learned about the difference between Harness Racing and Thoroughbred horses.  Harness racing horses pull carts and race more often than Thoroughbreds.  Thoroughbred horses race with a jockey on their back and race less often.  He told us about how the Delaware State Veterinarian is not very involved in the horse racing industry, but the veterinarians for each horse keep track of the tests to make sure the horse is healthy.

Mark Davis is very successful in his field and it just shows that you never know what career you are going end up with.  He graduated college with a completely different plan and ended up loving the horse racing industry.

Mark Davis and the equine industry

Mark Davis is currently Delaware’s Executive Director of the Harness Racing Commission. However, he didn’t start out his career here, but studied marine biology for a while before graduating with a degree in environmental science. He worked for a time as an environmental consultant and got involved with the Department of Ag in Delaware as a land use planner. He traded hats a few more times before landing his current job with the Harness Racing Commission.

Mr. Davis discussed with the class the many different aspects of the racing industry, which I myself knew very little about. He discussed the history, components, regulations, as well as the impact of the industry-which monetarily adds up to around $39 billion to the U.S. each year. He explained that the Delaware state vet isn’t typically involved with the racing industry unless there is a disease issue, instead there are vets at the track and the paddock. The vets at the track are there to watch the races and monitor the horses for lameness, to see that the whipping regulations are upheld and to do welt checks. At the paddock the vets have a slightly different purpose, that is to do lots of test to make sure the horses are in tip-top shape, like blood tests, heart rate checks and to check on joints. The upcoming challenges Mr. Davis sees for the industry is the government resting on the casinos too much without turn around to help the industry as well as the shrinking field.