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Hands-on experience at FVTC teaches agriculture students how to birth calves

Agriculture students at Fox Valley Technical College practice on a real-size cow birthing simulator on April 21st, 2016. (WLUK/Alexa Santos)

You can't miss the newest member of Dr. Lori Nagel's classroom.

Dr. Nagel, an instructor at Fox Valley Technical College, said, "It's been a great opportunity."

Her name is Maple Leaf Foxy and she's a realistic, full-size cow simulator.

It'll be used to teach students how to birth calves.

Nagel said, "This gives us the chance to try and set up some situations to make sure the students are prepared to be helpful, and to know to do the right tasks."

That involves some hands-on learning experiences. With the simulator, Nagel is able to replicate real complications that can happen on farms.

Nagel said, "That unpredictability and being able to deal with it is really a great skill for them I think it really builds their confidence."

Marissa Kent has worked on a farm for about a year, and says she's birthed about 10 real live calves. She says Maple Leaf Foxy is giving her the practice she needs.

Kent said, "You learn how to feel what you're actually feeling, and then you can take that back to the other farm, then you know 'I know this, I can fix it like this.' One of the benefits to this cow is that the calf feels real. It feels like it has bones, it feels like a real calf, it's slippery like it would be in a real life cow."

Kent wants to be a dairy herd manager, and says she loves working with the animals.

Kent said, "My favorite is probably working with the cows, assessing them. They're big babies, they are, they're like big dogs."

Nagel hopes more students will be as inspired as Kent.

Nagel said, "There's a need out there, we have a real shortage of students that are trained to work on the animal care side."

She says Miss Foxy isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

Nagel says the $36,000 cow simulator is the first in the state.

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