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Herding Cattle, Shepherding Students

Scott Brundage has a hard job, and he loves it. As Cummings School Herdsman, Scott is not only in charge of the health and welfare of the cattle and sheep herds on the 200-acre school farm, he’s also responsible for teaching students how to work with these animals. As part of the veterinary curriculum, students are expected to achieve a level of competency with farm animals, regardless what area of veterinary medicine they plan to practice. Considering many Cummings School students come from suburban or city lifestyles and have little experience with farm animals, helping students achieve competency can be a tall order, but Scott is up for the task.

A typical day on the farm starts at 7am.  As Scott makes his way around feeding the herds, he performs health checks, looking for sick or injured animals, and cows in heat.  He starts the day with a list of work priorities, but by 8am those plans go out the window.  Farm life is unpredictable, and Scott is always ready to problem solve as he goes, whether that be plowing a few feet of snow in the dark, or fixing a broken pipe on the fly.

By 10am, the farm chores are finished, and, it’s time for Scott to prepare for his next big task of the day: teaching.  Students who have never worked with livestock before tend to be apprehensive, or nervous. Cows are large animals, and while they look friendly in a roadside pasture, they can be intimidating up close, especially when you are the one preparing to palpate the 800-1000 lbs animal for the first time.

“We take baby steps” says Scott. “The first, most important thing I work on is making them comfortable and confident around livestock. Once they are comfortable and confident, they start to learn.”

Students join Scott on Tuesday afternoons for farm selective and herd checks, Wednesday mornings for farm rotation, and Thursday afternoons for Clinical Skills. During the summer, he teaches Adventures in Veterinary Medicine (AVM) classes for aspiring veterinarians. From basic handling, to deworming and lambing, Scott shepherds students through a curriculum that reflects a vast knowledge of animal husbandry.

As someone who has spent most of his life working around farms, he sometimes reminds himself to slow down, and go back to the basics. It can be challenging, but for Scott the reward comes when a student without any prior farming experience falls in love with the work, and shows interest in becoming a large animal food veterinarian.

Over the years, Scott’s students have kept in touch. They call him for advice, or to catch up on what is happening in the industry. He’s even been invited to be in former students’ weddings! Of his relationships with his students, Scott says “you can’t buy that.”

From herding cattle on the farm to shepherding students in Clinical Skills, Scott’s hardworking attitude and sincere love of his work go a long way towards the success Cummings School’s teaching farm, and we salute him.