Warning: You are about to experience extreme cuteness overload.
Cute, you ask? What could possibly be cute about a sheep experiment station?
Admittedly, the name might point your imagination in the wrong direction. No, this is not where innocent little sheep are being cruelly turned into ovine-alien mutants. In fact, this is a USDA research station that focuses on rangeland research using a resident flock of about 5000 sheep.
So what’s in it for you?
In order to maintain this flock of thousands of grazing sheep, the research station needs them to be successfully reproducing themselves on a regular basis. This means that every spring there is a period of about two months when hundreds of lambs are being born every week.
The station hires a veterinarian to supervise the lambing season, but they need more than just one set of hands to assist with all those difficult births and feed and treat all the special-case lambs. As a government agency always concerned about staying within the budget (!), they’ve come up with a great way to find those extra hands: they recruit students like YOU!
What’s this about being fully funded?
I learned about this opportunity kind of randomly through a presentation at a national conference on small ruminant medicine. I stuck around to ask a question of the presenter, who happened to be an officer in the American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners (AASRP). He let me know that there was a fool-proof method of getting to participate in this incredible lambing experience at very little cost to myself.
First, I needed to join the AASRP as a student member. This costs $15, but it is well worth it as you will see.
Next, I submitted my application for the externship program itself. The bad news is that this program fills up WAY in advance, so you this is something you should be planning ahead for as a 1st or 2nd year vet student (or anytime as an undergrad).
I recently spoke with the program administrator, Ms. Annette Eddins, and she let me know that they are filled up for both the 2013 and 2014 lambing seasons! However, she did say that they often need to fill a spot from someone who drops out, so they love to have some back-up applicants for those situations. Feel free to contact her at aeddins [at] uidaho.edu for more information.
The research station will actually pay you $16 per day of the externship. Then they take away $4 per day to provide you with housing (a little odd, I know), so you end up with $12 per day to spend on groceries or other food.
Finally, I submitted my application to the AASRP for their Student Externship Grant. It’s a very basic application, and they request that you apply about six months prior to your desired externship.
The grant can be for up to $750, which should be more than enough to cover your travel to the research station in Dubois, Idaho. I was able to get my flights from Massachusetts and a rental car using this grant money.
If you add all this up, you’ll see that you might even end up a few dollars in the black!
What You’ll Actually Be Doing
During your two-week externship, you’ll be working 12-15 hours a day, seven days a week. Lest you think that doesn’t sound too bad, you will also be on call for emergencies for all the remaining hours. It’s no walk in the park.
But it’s worth it! You will gain more experience in small ruminant reproduction, medicine, and surgery, than is available in almost any other situation. Along with countless sick lambs, dystocias, and prolapses of various body parts, we also did a limb amputation and an eye enucleation.
I loved being out under the big and ever-changing Idaho sky, my mind and body fully focused on the efforts at hand. There were four other vet students participating in the externship at the same time as me, so it was fun to learn from each other and share experiences as we worked side by side.
As always, please let me know if you have any questions about the experience. Who knows, maybe you’ll find yourself doing your own “sheep experiments” a couple of years from now!
And now for a parting question. Please leave your guesses in the comments section. Who can identify this beautiful budding rose?