Though the University of Connecticut began as an agricultural school, many students nowadays have little interaction with that side of UConn. So maybe they’d be surprised to know how active those students are in their field and how an agricultural club like Block and Bridle allows those students hands-on experience with the animals that club members might one day work with.
“It’s already taught me more about what livestock should look like,” Jada Wilson, the club’s secretary and a third-semester animal science major, said. “It’s definitely diversifying my knowledge a lot more.”
Wilson and other club members, including President Laura Irwin, talked about how the club has intertwined with their classwork and provided a helpful experiential component to their studies.
Block and Bridle members have the opportunity to learn about and work with beef cattle, dairy cattle, chickens, sheep, pigs and horses. In addition to learning how to handle various animals, the club’s close work with various species allows members to develop a bond with their animal.
“Beef cows, they’re way more skittish than dairy cows just because they don’t get a lot of human interaction, so like at the beginning of the semester the kids couldn’t even get close to their beef cows,” Wilson said. “Now, kids are able to walk right up to their cow, and the cows trust them and so it’s that bond that they now have.”
The club’s major event is Little I, short for Little International Livestock Show. Block and Bridle members organize the show, and students in Animal Science 1001 exhibit animals that they’ve worked with over the course of the semester. This year’s Little I will take place this Saturday, Nov. 2, at 9:30 a.m. in the Horsebarn Hill Arena.
“Little I gives students an opportunity to see livestock from beginning to end,” Irwin said. “What they’re judged on is how well they can show off the animal and how well they can clip, wash and clean the animal as well. The point is to show them off to the best of their ability.”
Block and Bridle members also attend the Northeast Student Affiliate (NESA) livestock show, where teams from various colleges show off and judge livestock. Judges are supposed to look for certain production qualities in each animal and compare the animal to breed standards. For example, students have to clip a beef cow’s fur correctly to show off its neck and shoulders to judges and to demonstrate that it is filling out to be a good production animal.
Besides giving club members experience working with animals, Block and Bridle provides a space for like-minded people to hang out. Many of the members said the club allowed them to meet other people with similar interests and goals.
“I come from a town where there’s no livestock whatsoever, like it’s really hard to come across people who are in 4-H or FFA [Future Farmers of America],” Caroline Smith, first-semester animal science major and Block and Bridle member, said. “I came to UConn … immediately everybody’s just already involved with all the things that I love, and it’s so hands-on and it’s a really great experience.”
Students can contact the UConn chapter of Block and Bridle at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit them on Instagram @ucblocknbridle.
Stephanie Santillo is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.