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Life as a Shepherd (and Beyond): Alice Newth

It’s hard to say what a typical day looks like for Alice Newth. One day, she might be moving fences and animals to new grazing pastures, and the next she’s teaching UMass students about livestock management. Sometimes, she’s even helping students oversee the birth of lambs or piglets.

Newth is the Livestock Manager at the Hadley Equine and Livestock Research and Education Center where she has worked for 28 years.

Growing up in Harvard, Massachusetts, Newth was surrounded by dogs, ample land, a pony, and not many neighbors. As a kid, she always thought she’d work exclusively with horses, “but this is way more fun,” she says about getting to work with a wide array of other livestock.

Newth graduated from UMass in 1982 and went on to work at the UMass Dairy Farm in South Deerfield for 13 years, before moving to the Hadley center.

“I was never like, ‘oh I want to be a shepherd,” says Newth, “It just kind of happened.” Now, she works with goats and pigs, but finds herself most drawn toward sheep.

“They get along with each other, raise their lambs nicely… I admire them a lot,” she says. “They’re hardworking animals… you can’t not appreciate them for that.”

Newth cares for goats, poultry and sheep in the livestock barn, teaches a sheep management class, and works closely with student workers to keep the barn running smoothly. When asked why she loves animals, Newth shrugged, grinned and said she’s “got no idea.”

“You can ask any of these guys,” she says about her students, “it’s just in their blood. I think that’s why kids choose this major. They’re willing to go through all sorts of stuff just to be around them.”

Perhaps the most fulfilling part of Newth’s job is her connection with students, and being able to watch them grow as they progress through the animal science program. “I don’t have children at home,” she says. “But it’s nice to see how much [students] grow. And it’s nice to see how much improvement in the animals’ production that we can do.”

Animals have also been central to Newth’s home life. For years she had dogs and did agility and tracking with them, but says she’s now waiting until retirement to bring another dog into her home. She still has lots of friends involved in dog sports and loves to spend time outside bicycling and gardening.