Not many students visiting the Kingston campus for the first time take the expanded campus tour, the one that ends with a walk across the street to Peckham Farm. But for those interested in studying animal science or becoming veterinarians, the farm tour is the highlight of their day.
“Peckham Farm is what made me decide to come to URI,” said Anna Ritz, a junior animal science major planning a career as a veterinarian. “To see all the hands-on experience I was going to get with farm animals was what really pulled me here. You get hands-on from day one.”
The 300-acre farm is the heart of the animal science program, where students apply what they’ve learned in their classes. In fact, several courses are taught right inside the farm’s many barns. That’s where students practice proper husbandry techniques, test the animals for diseases, administer vaccinations, and trim hoofs.
Peckham Farm is what made me decide to come to URI. To see all the hands-on experience I was going to get with farm animals was what really pulled me here.
“Direct contact with the animals at Peckham is essential,” said Fred Launer, who teaches two classes at the farm. “Students learn how to safely and humanely deal with farm animals, while also getting an appreciation for animal behavior.”
That direct contact with the animals is one reason URI students are accepted to vet school at such a high rate. About 75 percent of URI students who apply to vet school are admitted to at least one on their first try. The nationwide shortage of large animal vets and the hands-on experience our students have with large animals at Peckham give them a distinct advantage.
“I had never worked with farm animals before, so that was a big change for me,” Anna said. “That experience has been super important. That’s what’s going to give me an edge when I apply to vet school.”
Springtime at Peckham Farm is especially alluring. That’s birthing season, what some students claim is the cutest time of the year on campus, when animal science majors spend extra time at the farm to stand watch over—and assist when necessary—the birth of pigs, sheep, and goats. Once it even included the surprise delivery of an adorable donkey foal.
All that experience helped a group of 32 URI students take first place last winter in a regional animal science competition. Facing off against seven other universities in livestock judging, a quiz competition, and oral presentations on agriculture-related topics, the URI students fared better than they ever had before.
Richard Llanos took first place in livestock judging, a contest that involves judging the attributes of horses, cows, sheep, chickens, and a mystery category. “Our professors are constantly reminding us how a good animal should look and the reasons why they must look that way,” he said. “I basically applied what I learned in class, and at the end of the day those teachings helped us tremendously on our path to victory.”