Bristol County Agricultural High School is most unique amongst its cooperative members. Seated along the banks of the Taunton River in Dighton, MA, the school owns more than 280 acres and features 27 buildings, many built by the schools students since its founding in 1912. Here, 450 students from approximately 40 towns and cities throughout Bristol County are enrolled in a number of agricultural programs, including Arboriculture, Floriculture, Natural Resource Management and best loved by Cabot, Large Animal Science. It is within the Large Animal Science program that students learn animal nutrition and management, largely by tending to the school's mixed herd of cattle.
"We have quite a variety of breeds here at the school," notes Leslie Blanchette, Head of the Animal Science Division. "Holstein, Jersey, Brown Swiss, Guernsey, Milking Shorthorn; you name it and we pretty much have it. Currently, we keep 25 milkers and 55 breeding stock at the school. Maintaining a mixed herd is great for the students, because they get to experience working with different breeds, and figure out which are most to their liking. Farmers are often very particular about which breed of cow they keep, and are quick to expound on the virtues of their favorites."
Students at Bristol County Agricultural work on the school's farm daily, and really learn the ins and outs of farm management. "What's great about our program is that some of our students have never set foot on a farm before enrolling, while others spent their childhoods helping to look after the livestock and working in the fields," says Leslie. "After four years with us, most go on to college to study animal science or agriculture. Our Large Animal Science program produces a lot of veterinary technicians and animal nutritionists."
Besides being the only school that sells milk to Agri-Mark, Bristol County Agricultural has the distinction of being one of only three agricultural schools in Massachusetts, and the only school that milks cows. "We have more animals than your typical agricultural school," says Leslie. "We think that contributes to a quality experience for our students, helping strengthen their academic development. The hands on experience with the animals also assists in reinforcing our dedication to breed preservation. As one can imagine, the students get quite attached to our cows, and really take an interest in their quality of life."
In addition to focusing on animal care, Bristol County Agricultural also puts great emphasis on sustainability programs. The school has a natural resources department, and students learn about a variety of recycling programs and other natural resource conservation and sustainability practices.
Though the school, which is celebrating its centennial this year, doesn't milk cows as their primary source of income like most other dairy farmers, that doesn't mean they don't strive to produce the best quality product. Every year, they receive "A's" on their report card from Agri-Mark in the form of milk quality awards. Class dismissed.
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