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Prime lessons: Ag School students to raise cows

Tim Wallace 16 Chicago's Mount Greenwood community feeds one new cows Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences. Four cows were

Tim Wallace, 16, of Chicago's Mount Greenwood community, feeds one of the new cows at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences. Four cows were donated to the school. Students will feed and care for the animals. | Nick Swedberg~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 2, 2014 1:02PM



For many Chicagoans and even most suburbanites, crossing paths with a cow is an experience usually limited to when it’s being served on a sesame seed bun.

For the next seven months, students at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences will meet cows in a different manner: They will raise a small herd of cattle.

Two steers and two heifers were donated in mid-April by the Nebraska LEAD program, brought by trailer to the school in Chicago’s Mount Greenwood community.

Students will feed and look after the cattle until they are big enough to slaughter just before Thanksgiving.

The cattle are a first for the school, which has been growing its livestock population to offer students a more diverse education.

“We’ve had some individual cattle here and there, but it was just happenstance,” school Principal Bill Hook said. “This is the first time we’ve actually had a cattle operation.”

About 30 acres at the school were set aside for the cows to graze on. Each cow weighed about 850 pounds when it arrived, and they are expected to gain 80 to 100 pounds a month before they reach the ideal weight.

The plan is to use the money from selling off the meat in November to buy more cattle and continue the program, Hook said.

High school students will be tasked with making sure the animals are maintaining the correct weight, said Maggie Kendall, who teaches animal sciences at the school.

The school’s animal sciences program already has sections on pigs, horses and poultry. It also had a section on cows but did not offer hands-on education in that area until the arrival of the new livestock.

The LEAD council also will host several Ag School students at its farms in Nebraska as part of the learning experience.

Arranging to acquire the cattle and house them at the school has been a two-year project, Hook said. Students in different programs pitched in to make preparations.

“We don’t want to do it in silos,” Hook said. “We want to make sure everything we do is impactful on everybody.”

Tim Wallace, a 16-year-old junior, is in Kendall’s animal sciences class and hopes to be either a veterinarian or in another profession in which he gets to work with animals.

Wallace is looking forward to getting an education while working with an animal he happens to find adorable.

“If you’ve ever seen a calf, they’re really cute,” he said.



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