Talk to the Animals

Talk to the AnimalsWhen Kathryn Voelkner arrived at URI’s Peckham Farm to feed the animals one morning last month, she noticed that Jenny, one of the farm’s two donkeys, was lying on the ground and breathing heavily. Then she noticed why. The 3-year-old donkey had just given birth to her first foal.

“When I walked over to Jenny, I noticed that her attention was focused on something behind me,” said Kathryn, a senior animal science major. “I turned and saw the baby trying to take her first few steps. She was still wet from the birthing process, so she must have been born just minutes before I arrived.”

Although the birth of Jenny’s foal was a surprise to the farm manager and student farmhands, it isn’t the only newborn at Peckham this spring. Dozens of piglets seek attention when visitors arrive, as do tiny goat kids and lambs. The farm’s three calves, on the other hand, are more apt to ignore you.

Working at Peckham Farm helped me decide 100 percent that I want to work with livestock and become a large animal veterinarian.

For senior Courtney Walker, Peckham Farm was the primary reason she enrolled at URI. “I wanted a school where I could get real hands-on experience with animals,” said Courtney, who plans to become a veterinarian. “The experience and knowledge I gained there is unparalleled. It has helped open my eyes to new and different experiences I will treasure forever.”

The 300-acre farm includes pasture areas, woodlands, wetlands and turf fields, but the main focus is on the barns where students learn about and work with sheep, goats, pigs and cows. (The donkeys are guard animals.) Most of the student experiences at Peckham Farm are in conjunction with coursework, but students also intern and complete special projects there. It’s where most students in URI’s Pre-veterinary Program spend a good deal of their time learning about animal science and health.

Located across the street from URI’s Kingston campus, Peckham Farm is also 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 students get with large animals at Peckham give URI students a distinct advantage.

“Working at Peckham Farm helped me decide 100 percent that I want to work with livestock and become a large animal veterinarian,” said senior Casey Barrett. “It taught me how to handle animals, manage a farm, and know what is normal for the species living there.

“Peckham Farm is my home away from home,” Casey added.

If you’re interested in animal science and veterinary studies, it could be your home, too.