As a live-in student manager at Cal Poly Pomona’s sheep unit, Taylor Zumstein has quickly learned to manage about 100 sheep.
“Eat, sleep, sheep. That’s pretty much it,” she says. “I’m pretty much my own sheep dog.”
Every day, she herds the animals out to pasture, feeds them grain and hay, refills water troughs and works on odd jobs around the farm. She also helps out during lambing season, shears sheep and gives medicine to sick animals.
“Sheep are fun to take care of. I love lambing season when you have all the baby lambs that are learning how to walk and nurse. Seeing them grow is such a neat experience. I guess that’s why I love sheep.”
Growing up on a horse farm in northern San Diego county, Zumstein always had a connection with animals. But it was her high school’s FFA program (Future Farmers of America) that sparked her interest in sheep husbandry. Studying at Cal Poly Pomona seemed like the natural next step, says the agribusiness junior, who hand-raised seven lambs in high school.
“Cal Poly Pomona offers the perfect opportunity to pursue my passion,” says Zumstein, who is also captain of the equestrian team and president of the livestock show team. “When I first came to this campus I automatically fell in love with it because it’s so agriculture-based and because of all the opportunities it provides for students.”
The hands-on education in the breeding industry is giving Zumstein the experience she needs to start her own flock, an endeavor that won’t wait until after graduation. Back on the family farm in Fallbrook, she is raising four sheep, one of which was a lamb she showed and later sold during her high school FFA days.
In addition to selling lambs to FFA programs, Zumstein dreams of teaching young people how to raise and show sheep at competition. Showing animals is a yearlong process that includes washing, fitting and clipping, as well as getting to know an animal’s personality.
Educating the general public is also a long-term goal, especially to clear up misconceptions about agriculture, breeding, and how food travels from farm to the table, she says.
“I really love ag education, and I think it would be a lot of fun to educate people. I don’t think people really understand agriculture production or industry in general,” she says. “You may go to the grocery store and buy a package of meat, but you might not really understand where it comes from or what the necessary steps were to raise animals or properly manage them.”
Zumstein is proud of the farms and fields at Cal Poly Pomona, as well as her own growing flock in Fallbrook.
“I have to say that for FFA and especially here, we’re taking the best care of them,” she says. “I give them the best life that they could pretty much have for however long I have them. They’re fed the best of grain, they’re pampered, and they’re taken care of.”