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Tate Nelson: Let the 3:30 a.m. feeding begin!

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Tate Nelson, Cal Poly dairy manager, who wakes at 3:00 a.m. everyday to feed dairy cows.
Photo by Vanessa Knevelbaard / Special Contributor – Journalism 201A


By Vanessa Knevelbaard
Special Contributor
Journalism 201A

At 3:30 a.m., most people in San Luis Obispo are sound asleep with hours to go until they have to wake up, that is, besides Tate Nelson.

Nelson is a student at Cal Poly and also the manager of the Cal Poly dairy and has hours that exceed the normal. Every morning he is at the dairy by 3:30 a.m. and has to continually come back to the dairy between classes to make sure everything including feeding, which is his main responsibility on the dairy, goes smoothly.

He is in charge of teaching other students who work on the dairy to properly feed, milk and clean the cows and how to run the dairy when he graduates.

“I would say this is the most challenging part about my job,” said Nelson. “They don’t quite know what they are doing and any mistake could really take a toll on the dairy and it makes my day longer trying to fix it.”

Along with teaching the college kids what’s right and wrong with taking care of the cows and feed, he also has to oversee the dairy and make sure it is all running smoothly. He is also in charge of mixing all the feed and making sure the proper ingredients and proper amounts are in the feed. If there are any mistakes, the unbalance could cause an unhealthy cow, which then makes a problem for production.

The most unusual part, according to Nelson, about his job is him having to wake up so early.

“Usually for most dairies you’ll have to be there by 6-6:30 a.m., but in my case having to wake up at 3 a.m. and being there no later than 3:30 a.m. due to feeding is unusual,” says Nelson. “For most dairies, the feeding schedule was later, so that’s the unusual part of it.”

Nelson has a passion for the dairy industry, due to his agricultural background, and making sure the cows are as healthy as they can be in order to produce healthy milk and lots of it. His end goal is to be a nutritionist for dairies. Healthy cows mean healthy production so he wants to able to keep the cows well in order for dairies to have the most production possible.

“Working for dairies is the best possible route right now for me so I can gain experience for my future job as a nutritionist,” Nelson said.

Another struggle for Nelson is that he has to work with old and improper machinery.

“Due to the lack of good machinery, it takes the job twice as long. I could be done with my day a whole lot earlier but because I have go over the same things twice, it lengthens my day.”
Dairies, he has previously worked at, have had the best and newest machinery to offer. But since this is only a college dairy, they do not get that luxury.

This experience, even though it may be hard, will result in a great work experience for future jobs. Nelson said that his current job has better prepared him for his future and thinks that others would benefit as well.

“I would just say that whatever your planning on doing in your life, start working at it right now. It looks good for your future employers to see that you are experienced and work hard at what you want to do. Starting early, it only results in goods things. Yeah you could miss out on some fun college things now, but just think about your future.” Nelson is doing just that, looking towards his future.