Calving season offers discovery at BVU Agricultural Experiment Station

Friday, March 19, 2021
Phoebe Flaskey, a Buena Vista University freshman biomedical sciences major, notes that working with livestock at BVU’s new Agricultural Experiment Station on Storm Lake’s northern edge, will serve as a gateway to working with humans. Her goal is to one day have a career in cancer research or dermatology.

Buena Vista University freshman Phoebe Flaskey recently helped Mike Christen position a calf for its birth at BVU’s new Agricultural Experiment Station on the north edge of Storm Lake.

“It was wonderful to see Phoebe tackle a new challenge, one of the many experiences we can offer students here at the AES,” says Christen, Land Unit Manager for BVU’s Institute for Agriculture.

“I got to reach in and feel the hooves of the baby calf inside the momma cow,” says Flaskey. “Then, with Mike’s direction, I reached in further and could feel the nose inside the placenta.”

Buena Vista University Land Unit Manager Mike Christen works with Phoebe Flaskey, a freshman from Tea, S.Dak., at BVU’s new Agricultural Experiment Station on Storm Lake’s northern edge. Flaskey has vaccinated, treated, and tagged newborn calves, among other duties at the site.

In due time, the calf was delivered. It came out hooves first. When the calf’s hips were too wide for the birth canal, Christen and Flaskey helped position the calf for a natural delivery.

“It was a Char heifer,” says Flaskey. “It was very cute, even when covered with amniotic fluid. We let the momma and her baby be as I headed back to class on campus.”

This is the kind of experience that will become common for BVU students interested in livestock and more at the Agricultural Experiment Station, now in its first year. Mike and his wife, Dana Christen, work with BVU’s Institute for Agriculture professors and staff in bringing such experiences to fruition.

While some students prefer working with horses, or harvesting corn, or studying soil types, Flaskey leans toward the treatment of livestock. First, it appeals to her nature as a lover of animals. Second, the experiences she’s gaining serve as a gateway for future work with humans as a biomedical sciences major.

“The work on the farm, and doing something like facilitating during calving, has me even more excited to work with humans,” says Flaskey, a Tea, S.Dak., native who graduated from Tea Area High School in 2020. “I’m hoping to take an EMT course over the summer.”

Giving vaccinations to and applying iodine to the navel of a calf are tasks Flaskey has enjoyed in recent weeks. She’s anxious to engage in the embryo-transfer work done by Christen at the farm later this spring.

“Phoebe’s experience is an excellent example of the cross-disciplinary reach of the AES here at BVU,” says Rich Crow, Director of BVU’s Institute for Agriculture. “In addition to the hands-on laboratory experiences and research studies our BVU students are diving into at the AES, we also have a wide range of co-curricular opportunities for all to engage in such as horseback riding, livestock showing, and advanced farm activities.”

Flaskey’s career goal is to one day work as a dermatologist, or in cancer research. A family member’s successful battle against cancer inspires Flaskey to learn all she can in the hopes of one day serving others.

A great starting point, in addition to the BVU classrooms, is at the Agricultural Experiment Station, where she’s found a second home, in addition to her spot on the lakeside campus.

“I like the class sizes at BVU and how the professors use hands-on instruction in the sciences,” she says. “I’m also part of peer group of friends that studies together. We have a saying, ‘Go During Office Hours,’ as that’s when professors are available to answer any questions and help in any way they can.”

It was during one of those visits to Dr. Bob Brodman, Associate Professor of Biology, when Flaskey met Landon Sullivan, Instructor of Animal Science, who inquired about her interest in agriculture, one that ranges from topics in veterinary medicine to BVU rodeo.

“I read about a ‘horse clinic’ in BVU News, then went to the AES to ride horses,” Flaskey says. “Once I was there, I began seeing all the other livestock BVU and the Christens had. I couldn’t wait to return once calving season started. I’ll be there for the work in embryo transfer this spring.”