Annabella Whalen

Annabella Whalen will be graduating in May 2024 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science with the Animal Management concentration. Growing up in nearby West Springfield, MA, UMass Amherst was always a school she was very interested in, and she was especially drawn to the Animal Science program. After learning more about the countless opportunities the department has to offer it was very clear UMass was the right fit for her. After being awarded the John and Abigail Adams scholarship and being accepted to the UMass Animal Science program, her commitment followed very soon after. Though initially unsure which path she would want to pursue within the world of animal science her passion for animals led her to the right place. Having grown up surrounded by animals her whole life, but having very limited livestock experience she is incredibly grateful for all she has learned throughout her four years at UMass.

In the Fall of 2020, almost all classes were held remotely, but Annabella was lucky enough to live close by and attend some in person Animal Science 101 labs where she had her first introduction to the livestock barn, especially the sheep. Though this was a brief introduction, the opportunity to work with the sheep, goats, and horses was extremely exciting and inspired her to pursue courses in the future that would allow her to continue her work with these animals. Once in person classes started up again, she registered for Dorset Sheep Management for the Fall of 2021. This course introduced her to numerous animal management practices and simultaneously opened her mind to a brand new career path, livestock and animal management. Through the instruction of livestock barn manager Alice Newth, she learned about flock management, lambing and neonatal care, nutrition, and many other animal care and management practices regarding the Dorset Sheep flock.

After falling in love with the class and working with the flock, Annabella applied to be a teaching assistant and was offered a position for the Spring of 2022, and has been working alongside Alice and her fellow teaching assistants ever since. In this role, Annabella has been able to give lectures and teach different hands on skills including: hoof trimming, fecal egg counts, sheep showing, and vaccination. One of her favorite aspects of this course is assisting with lambing, lamb neonatal care, and lamb processing. She has been able to help with numerous lambings and help teach Dorset Sheep Management students and her peers about the lambing process. As a teaching assistant for Dorset Sheep Management, Annabella has been able to develop strong public speaking skills and a passion for teaching.

In the Spring of 2022, she enrolled in the Belted Galloway Cattle Management course where, under instruction of Dr. Beltaire, and her teaching assistants, Annabella was introduced to beef cattle management and worked closely with the herd. This course combined with her work in the livestock barn ensured Annabella that continuing to work within the livestock industry would be her goal upon graduation. During the same semester, she took advantage of the numerous research opportunities UMass provides and joined the Fissore lab to gain a better understanding of animal reproduction, a subject she takes great interest in. Under the instruction of the lab's graduate students, she learned different laboratory techniques such as PCR and genotyping, proper mice handling techniques, and oocyte collection and handling. With these skills she was able to perform a research project studying how magnesium impacted the development of mouse oocytes. Through her experience in the Fissore lab, she was able to gain important insight regarding the world of animal research and reproduction.

The following summer, Annabella was hired to work at the UMass Hadley Farm Livestock Barn. She was able to further her knowledge and skills regarding large animal husbandry, pasture management, breeding, numerous other management practices and overall daily chores with the Dorset Sheep flock, the Boer goats, and the Belted Galloway Cattle herd. During the following Fall semester, Annabella continued her work in the livestock barn where she learned even more about assisting with lambing and fell in love with helping to bring newborn lambs into the world.

Starting in the Spring of 2023, Annabella began working under Dr. Beltaire as an Animal Science 103 teaching assistant. In this role, she was responsible for helping students learn course material and teaching components of the course's hands-on laboratory section. A large component of this role is assisting with lambing and farrowing (the process of piglet birth) and guiding students through the birth and neonatal care process. This opportunity allowed her to assist with numerous lambings and with her first farrowing. She was able to gain sow and piglet handling experience as well as learning about and performing a piglet castration.

The following summer, she continued her work with Dr. Beltaire as her summer intern, working closely with the Belted Galloway herd, assisting with calving, calf and cow care, and assisting with artificial insemination for the next year's calving season. This internship experience also involved assisting with a two week high school summer course taught by Dr. Beltaire where Annabella taught introductory Animal Science material and hands on skills. The following Fall semester, Annabella enrolled in a second semester of Belted Galloway Management in order to continue working with the Belties herd. During this time, she was able to assist in halter training the growing calves to prepare them for showing during the UMass annual Bay State Livestock Classic which takes place every April. Additionally, she was able to assist Dr. Beltaire in bull-calf castration.

During her senior year, Annabella serves as a Peer Advisor for the VASCI department. The peer advisors hold weekly office hours where students have the opportunity to stop by and seek advice from their peers and ask questions to help guide them through the Animal Science and Pre-Veterinary programs.

Also during her senior year, Annabella is participating in a livestock management internship under the guidance of Alice Newth, Livestock Barn Manager and Steph Puro, Assistant Livestock Barn Manager. Through this internship Annabella took on a bigger leadership role in the livestock barn helping to lead chores and assist in daily procedures. Alice and Steph have been instrumental in teaching Annabella new animal management practices which she can utilize in her future. This internship and her work at the livestock barn have allowed Annabella the opportunity to work as the interim livestock barn assistant manager this coming summer.

Annabella would like to thank all of the professors, friends, sheep, and cows for making her experience at UMass so amazing and memorable. She would like to specifically thank Alice Newth and Steph Puro for being such phenomenal mentors and teaching her so much about the field of animal management. She would also like to thank Dr. Beltaire for all of the amazing opportunities she has provided and is forever grateful for. Her time at UMass and passion for working with livestock would not be at all the same without these incredible women. Annabella would encourage anyone who is interested in the field of animal science to apply to UMass Amherst because of the endless opportunities that the department has to offer.