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  • Animal Science
  • Animals
No Livestock Experience? No Problem.

Working with livestock can be exciting and challenging—even intimidating for those who didn’t grow up on a farm. But even if you grew up in the city and have never interacted with large animals you can still learn to work with livestock. How? By joining Block & Bridle, a student organization at Cornell that gives students from all majors the chance to gain educational, hands-on interaction with livestock of all kinds. 

Block & Bridle has existed since 1916, but in 2023 members revised the format of the organization from competition-based to educational. “We want it to be a really inclusive environment where there are people of all backgrounds being able to learn different things,” said Adyson Miller, Block & Bridle president.

In the past, Block & Bridle focused primarily on competition and livestock shows where members handled and groomed livestock, they also participated in livestock judging, public speaking, presentations, and evaluations. The latest transition to a more hands-on, educational approach encourages an environment where students from all departments can learn what it means to care for animals, said Miller. A typical Block & Bridle meeting now focuses on clinics, mini-lectures and hands-on demonstrations. 

 “We want it to be a really inclusive environment where there are people of all backgrounds being able to learn different things.”

 – Adyson Miller

The organization also discusses industry technology that requires livestock knowledge and care. “We go over what happens on the solar panel farms, the rotations that we do, the research that's going on there, why sheep are better fitted for solar panel farms, and just how the whole process goes throughout the summer,” said Miller. Participating in these meetings enables members within the field interest to envision what a future career might look like. It fosters a great environment to ask questions, get involved and show up when you can.  

These days, members come from a variety of backgrounds. “I’m from the city,” said Antonia Li ’24, public relations chair. “I have no livestock experience. I wasn’t raised on a farm or anything like that.” 

However, Block & Bridle has provided her with the confidence and skill set to care for large animals. “My confidence evolved immensely,” she said. “Not only does the physical time we get with the animals help, but the lectures before the clinic also give those who need it a little more aid.” 

Adding clinics to the club’s format this past year was a priority, said Li. “Clinics are a very important aspect we wanted to include this year because of the consistency and accessible times we can offer to our members. That’s essential because Cornell students are so busy during the semester,” she said. 

With a mini lecture before each hands-on clinic activity, members gain familiarity with each topic and have the opportunity to practice with the animals. All they have to do before the meeting is sign a waiver.

Miller and Li stressed that everyone is welcome to join at any time. “I'm really excited to see the growth of this club,” said Miller. “We used to be at 200 members, tops. Then when COVID hit, the club had to close down. We brought it back in 2022, and right now we have 40 active members. 

“Even though I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished in two years, I believe that we can do so much more in the future,” she added.

 

Izzy Escalante ’26 is a communication major and student writer for the Cornell CALS Department of Animal Science.

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