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Audrey Emery, 21, assists with tattooing this year's crop of calves in the chute barn where the animals are put through a series of chutes to control and restrain them. Audrey is a senior pre-veterinary medicine student at Morehead State University who lives and works on the university farm.

For the love of animals

story by Fran Ruchalski

Morehead State University senior Audrey Emery, 21, laughs when she says that her mantra is “shit happens.” For this Kentucky woman, cleaning it up is a big part of what she does daily.

Audrey is a pre-veterinary medicine student at MSU, and like about 47 other students in the agriculture programs at the school, she gets to live and work on the university’s 350-acre farm known as the Derrickson Agricultural Complex located a few miles from the main campus.

“All of us living out here are a kind of family,” she says. They all have similar interests in working with animals, and they enjoy living on the farm together.

“And,” she adds, “you just can’t beat this view.”

Back home in Pendleton County, Kentucky, her family had some land and she had her own horses growing up. It led her to pursue a dream of becoming an equine veterinarian. Seeing the equine facilities at Morehead convinced her it was a place she could be happy.

But when she started school, she never imagined one day she would become enamoured with all kinds of farm animals.

“The pigs are my favorites,” she gushes. “Some people don’t like them because they smell, but all animals stink. I just love them all.”

The farm is a research and production facility. A lot of the feed for the horses, cattle, hogs, sheep and even shrimp is raised on the farm.

As part of her work-study, Audrey participates in the feeding and care of the animals. Cleaning up after them is a big part of that. But she doesn’t mind at all.

“Living and working on a production farm like this, I understand how the systems work and how they affect the animals,” she says. “Understanding these things will make me a much better doctor. In other programs, you don’t get that.”

She says this with conviction because she’s said it many times before.

Audrey is an ambassador for the farm, conducting farm tours for visitors and recruiting students for the program. She was chosen after going through a rigorous screening process. From the excitement in her voice, you can tell it’s a real honor for her.

Another thing she’s quick to point out is the animals produced on the farm become food for the university in the Kentucky Proud Farm to Campus program. Helping to bring healthy and safe food to the other students gives her a sense of pride in what she does.

At this moment, while she is thinking about upcoming exams, Audrey is nervous about an impending interview for the veterinary program at Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee.

“You just be you and they’ll be impressed like everyone else,” says farm manager Joe Fraley proudly. “I know she’d never tell you this, but she’s one of our best.”

Audrey smiles broadly as she goes back to hosing and cleaning the manure in one of the hog pens. It may not be glamorous, but she's happy.


Audrey climbs into a pen with a cow that has been isolated from the rest of the herd to check her and give her fresh food and water.


Audrey and Zach Ault, another student in the ag sciences program who also lives and works on the farm, carry 50-pound bags of feed to the calves. The calves get a special diet to ensure they get extra minerals and nutrients for healthy growth. Audrey moves quickly and navigates easily with the heavy bags around the 200-pound calves in the open pens.


Audrey plays with her hair as she navigates early morning traffic on her way to her 8 a.m. ag health class. She used to be early for everything, but as senioritis has set in and there are more constraints on her time, she finds herself multi-tasking and getting to class just in time.


In between classes on the main campus, Audrey finds an empty room to do a little studying. While she loves what she's doing, she says her whole life consists of going to class, studying and working on the farm.


Audrey works on a group task in her biochemistry class with Josh Brown, 21, and Jessica Link, 27.


While assisting with an ag class lab in the chute barn at the farm, Audrey shares a few laughs with Luke Trap, 20, (from left), Kobe McWhorter, 18, and Chase Dreyer, 19. Most of her friends at school are also involved in the agricultural sciences program.


Audrey tries to cuddle a baby pig in the nursery at the farm, but the little one is not too happy about it. She likes to take special care of the little ones, as they are very susceptible to diseases. And she can't keep from handling them because they are "just so darn cute."


Audrey cleans the farrowing house where the pregnant sows are kept when they are about to give birth. A major part of what she does is keeping the facilities as clean and disease-free as possible.


While most of her time is spent going to class, studying, and working on the farm, Audrey finds time to enjoy some good times at a Halloween party with friends Kelli Garrett (from left), Nicole Howard and Taylor Hudson.

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