By Jackie TaylorOn a very smoky September 14th I made my way through the hustle and bustle of Shaw avenue to visit my alma mater, California State University, Fresno. Once I got past the online surveys, red tape, and a thermal check by campus PD, I made sure to mask up as I headed for the campus farm. I pulled into my usual spot and met with the beef unit herdsman, Trevor Autry. I was greeted by a cutie named Bailey, who wagged her tail anxiously as I sat in the dusty office.
Today’s topic wasn’t the annual bull sale or the latest calf count, it was the dreaded Creek Fire. Thankfully, Fresno State opened its facilities to a select number of families who needed to evacuate their livestock. What was once just a pasture of Charolais and Angus, now speckled with Crossbreds, Shorthorns, and the occasional Red Angus. Made possible by student volunteers and community donations, several herds of cattle had to be moved to the Fresno State farm, where they happily escaped the smoky conditions and the flames.
Among those that were herded to Fresno State included a herd of goats, mules, horses, and several hundred cattle. Although some have been returned to their owners, several animals remain in the numerous pastures and panels at Fresno State. The animals are being fed hay from the school’s one-hundred acre farm with the exception of various donations. The number of animals has not been a challenge for the beef unit, but the ashy water and pasture rotations are slightly harder to keep up with these days. I was warned to change my own livestock’s trough daily because water with ash can create lye and other cocktails of unpalatable poisons, ultimately killing livestock with a prolonged exposure.
After my visit to the pastures and the numerous pictures of the evacuees, I made my way across the parking lot to the Quarter Horse unit. This unit always impresses me because of the students’ dedication to working, bathing, and birthing quality Quarter Horses. This year they are reporting the largest foaling ever, with 8 new freshly weaned foals running around. They acquired eight horses during the Creek Fire and they are also in awe of all of the donations and support from the community. The twenty-five horses who call the unit home have been enjoying the new whinnies of their pals. Sarah reports that although many classes are not meeting in person through the rest of 2020, the horses still receive a lot of love from student employees and community onlookers, who are advised to look and not touch the animals.
It wouldn’t be a Water Wrights report if we didn’t mention water, would it? Fresno State’s farm relies on flood irrigation from the Fresno Irrigation District (FID) and seasonal rains. They flood irrigate with their allowance from FID and maintain their pastures with the most sustainable methods possible, including community partnerships and student research. Although this year’s water supply was cut off a little early, the campus farm appears to be teeming with new life and new temporary visitors from the affected wildfire areas.
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Jackie Taylor is WaterWrights.net’s social media director. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org