By ANGEL CARPENTER
For the Capital Press
MT. VERNON, Ore. -- Advanced agriculture students from area high schools recently had a rare opportunity to operate new state-of-the-art livestock ultrasound equipment.
Gail and Shirley Enright opened their Wagon Wrench Ranch Feb. 27 to the students, who received hands-on instruction from veterinarian Colleen Robertson and Grant Union Junior-Senior High School ag teacher Kris Kizer.
Monument ag teacher Laura Thomas also lent a hand. She brought 12 students, and Kizer brought 14.
Kizer said the ultrasound machine and mobile lab cost $32,000.
Oregon Department of Education grant money available to 16 schools in the Grant, Baker, Union and Wallowa counties -- $2,000 for each school -- was pooled to acquire the equipment, which will be shared by the participating schools.
Sherry Cole of Grant County Education Service District wrote the application for the grant, which is to be used for increasing technology and dual credit opportunities for high school students.
Grant County was the first to use the equipment.
Several students performed an evaluation of pregnant cows from the Enright herd.
It was routine for some students who had performed "preg checks" on their own ranches, but it was a little out of the comfort zone for others. The delicate procedure requires a certain amount of courage, as well as know-how.
Robertson said the point of the procedure is to check for pregnancy, how far along the pregnancy is, detect the sex of the fetus and check for twins -- all without poking or pinching the fetus.
"The most important thing is safety first," Robertson said.
"These are big critters, and they're not here by choice," she said, adding that when giving an exam the students should think of a way out should trouble arise. "Keep yourself, the animal and the equipment safe."
Grant Union FFA chapter president Megan Lane had performed the checks before, at friends' ranches and at a Treasure Valley Community College clinic.
"Getting this equipment was a big deal," she said. "I think it's fantastic -- it's an awesome chance for these kids."
"It was really cool," said Monument student Bailey Thomas. "I wasn't going to come, but my sister Maya convinced me. She's done it before."
Classmate Jaine Homan said that once she got everything down, "it was simple."
Ryan Cook, also a Monument student, said it was "a little bit difficult" but got through the procedure successfully.
Monument student G.W. Clark, experienced in the process of ultrasound, noted the cow he checked was 60 days along.
At least one of the cows was expecting twins.
Kizer said the training allows students to use new industry-leading technology and learn how it helps livestock owners increase productivity. He noted the equipment can also check a carcass for meat quality before butchering.
"It helps students as they explore job opportunities in the agriculture field," he said. Those who take the extra class earn six college credits.
The adults were impressed with the students.
"The students were mature," said Gail Enright, and "quiet and respectful around the cattle."
He learned about the training opportunity for students at a Grant County Stockgrowers meeting and, interested in seeing youth involved in ag education, offered to have them learn the ropes of ultrasound checks at his ranch.
"I think it was a phenomenal opportunity for him to allow us to come out, and we're extremely grateful," said Kizer.