CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – In early September, a pickup truck hauling a cattle trailer pulled into the Nashville Zoo’s Grassmere Historic Farm with a gift from Austin Peay State University – three Belted Galloway cows.
The animals – a rare beef-breed of cattle with an iconic white stripe running down their sides – were donated so the zoo can depict the varying conditions of Tennessee farms throughout the last 200 years.
“They were particularly interested in some small-sized, rather docile animals, which is what the Belties are,” Dr. Don Sudbrink, APSU assistant professor and chair of the APSU Department of Agriculture, said. “They originated as a very hardy and lean Scottish breed, able to feed on poor pasture land and survive and thrive.”
The Zoo’s Historic Farm exhibit, which is open daily to the public, makes use of the original, 200-year-old farm at Grassmere where the facility now resides.
“We were looking for something original for a turn of the century farm,” Heather Robinson, a veterinarian at the zoo, said. “We’re trying to replicate what would have been there at the time.”
The farm’s exhibit already includes several heritage breeds of animals, such as Silver Laced Wyandotte chickens, two Milking Devon cattle and a Percheron draft horse.
Two years ago, J & N Enterprises donated 16 Belted Galloways to the APSU Environmental Education Center, also known as the APSU Farm. Since the original donation, several Beltie calves have been born at the farm. Officials with the zoo read about the APSU Beltie herd and contacted Sudbrink about the possibility of bringing some of the animals to Nashville.
Nashville Zoo is accredited by the prestigious Association of Zoos and Aquariums, assuring the highest standards of animal care and husbandry. The University agreed to give three heifers to the zoo in exchange for a breeding agreement, which allows APSU to receive some of the calves produced from the donated Belties.
“We’ll get some more diverse genetic stock that could come back to the farm’s herd that way,” Sudbrink said. “The Belted Galloways are not the most common of breeds.”
A placard will also be placed at the zoo’s historic farm recognizing APSU’s gift.
The animals have thrived at the APSU farm in the two years since they arrived. Aside from their distinctive look, the Belties also provide a valuable teaching tool for professors such as Sudbrink.
“They’re quiet a conversation starter with that white stripe, but they’re also very interesting in teaching genetics, too,” he said. “You can see some strong, dominant genes in some with a black-and-white pattern, and then there’s a recessive gene with a reddish brown pattern in others.”
Students in livestock genetics classes visit the farm each semester to examine the animals. They also have to chart the pedigree lines and figure out a breeding plan to maximize productivity.
“It’s a great, practical activity for the student,” Sudbrink said.
The three APSU Belted Galloways are now living at the zoo’s farm exhibit, and Sudbrink hopes the relationship between the University and the zoo will continue for years to come.
“Hopefully the APSU Pre-Vet Club can come to the zoo and tour the facilities with veterinarian Sally Nofs,” he said. “There are internships at the zoo, and we’ve had at least a couple of our pre-vet students who’ve interned there.”
For more information on the Belted Galloways, contact Sudbrink at 221-7266 or firstname.lastname@example.org.