NDSU animal science deals with labor shortage

Program relies on 38 students to care for animals on campus.

North Dakota State University usually relies on 38 students to help care for livestock in the animal science department, but many students have left campus as classes moved online due to COVID-19 prevention efforts. (Trevor Peterson / Agweek)

FARGO, N.D. — North Dakota State University, like colleges and schools across the country, has suspended in-person classes, sending many students home to try to prevent the spread of coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19. That caused a bit of a labor shortage at the campus’s six animal facilities, as well as the farming operations that provide livestock feed.

About 38 students help take care of the animals, and right now only about a third of them are still in Fargo and able to work. The biggest concern right now is in the dairy cattle unit, which requires the most work.

Farm manager Trent Gilbery says so far employees and students are handling the situation well, but there is some concern if the virus affects staff and students.

“We’re doing what we can to alleviate some of the problems that we anticipate may arise, but it’s a fluid situation,” Gilbery said. “We are going to have to adjust just like anyone else to it as things develop, and hopefully we get through this with minimal disturbances.”

Gilbery says they’ve asked each unit manager to draw up a detailed plan in case others need to come in and care for the animals.

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