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In spring, Lookabill is always sheepish

Photos and Story by

Terry Lookabill

Terry Lookabill, Rock Creek Farm coordinator

The days are short come February for Terry Lookabill.

The Rock Creek Farm coordinator is on the constant lookout for lambs. Late February and most of March is lambing season at the farm, which means its dedicated coordinator must be on full alert 24/7. Lookabill, a native of Newberg, lives in the house next to the barn. Every day, he checks the ewes at 6 p.m. and once again at 10 p.m. and lets the Veterinary Technology students take over in the mornings and early afternoons. He usually gets about three to four hours of sleep.

"I used to do it all alone," he laughed as he massaged his weary eyes.

This is the 14th lambing for Lookabill and the farm has had a lambing every spring since the 1970s when the campus opened. Then, the farm coordinators had more help with an endless supply of eager students from the agriculture degree program at Rock Creek, which ended in 1991.

One day last month, he watched as five ewes all went into labor at once. He had to deliver 10 lambs that day and all eight of his pens were full of ewes. Typically, when ewes go into labor, he has to keep them there for three days as they have their offspring. But despite the hard work and long, late-night hours, Lookabill wouldn’t trade the job for anything in the world.

Young Lambs "I love watching the little lambs run up and down the alley way," he said. "They run en mass, racing back and forth the length of the pasture, and back into the barn."

In total, lambing season goes on for three to four weeks and, with 25 ewes, that’s a big chore for one man. The lambs are kept until the end of the summer when they will weigh about 100 pounds. Lookabill will take all but a few of the lambs to the Woodburn Livestock Exchange to sell them. The money is used for funding farm operations such as buying feed. He typically keeps ewes – average size of about 150 to 200 pounds – for 10 years and replaces them with the lambs.

After growing up in Newberg, Lookabill worked at the local paper mill for 15 years before finding work at the Sylvania Campus as the district locksmith. Then, in 1994, he was hired on to be the farm coordinator – perfect work for somebody who lived on a fully functioning 50-acre farm.

Lookabill’s work is never routine at the farm. In the spring, he’s busy calving and lambing, fixing fences and spreading manure on the pastures. In the summer, he gets away and the livestock generally remain out on the pastures for most of the season. In the fall, he helps Vet Tech students with their labs and spends his time in the barn feeding the animals. The majority of the winter leading up to the lambing, Lookabill works on maintenance of his farm machinery.

The farm has plenty of animals besides the lambs. There are also a dozen cows, Dave the horse, a few rabbits and one llama named Graywind. These are the patients of the Vet Tech students who get practical experience with animals by providing them with general health care.

Grown Sheep "The Farm is an integral part of the Vet Tech program," Lookabill said. "It adds to the atmosphere of the campus to have animals here. The students provide routine vaccinations on the cows and sheep. Most of the students spend a lot of time out here. Most want to come out and study or to just watch the sheep. We had an art class come out and sketch the animals."

In November, PCC could have a bond in the general election. If passed, part of the bond would upgrade facilities of the farm to help improve conditions for the animals and students but also could lure other farm programs to the campus. "The Farm is an integral part of the Rock Creek Campus in that it is a curricular component of both science and technical programs and contributes to the campus beauty and culture," said Rock Creek Campus President Katherine Persson.

The bond would help strengthen the farm by updating facilities such as the house, barns and pastures.

"The more we can offer, like diversity of programs, the more partnerships we can have," Lookabill added. "We’d get to bring in teaching seminars through Oregon State University and Washington State’s extension services. It’s hard for them to hold an event where they can have live animals. Local farms are a little jumpy about having the public on their land. Anything we can do to upgrade the offerings here is good. There is nowhere else in the state like it."

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »

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