CSU, Chico

Breanna Roque, Animal Science and Agriculture Business

Breanna Roque, Animal Science and Agriculture Business

When students come to work at the California State University, Chico Dairy, most expect to gain hands-on experience in organic dairy management with the brown Jersey-cross cows that make up the dairy herd.  Junior Animal Science and Agriculture Business major Breanna Roque had her eyes on a different specie, the brown-feathered Red Star hens that share the pastures with the cows.

“This project is a great opportunity to learn how to utilize two species to provide a sustainable environment for each,” Roque said. She also likes the fact that the organic dairy unit and the pastured poultry project are complimentary to each other. “The organic dairy provides pasture space for the hens, and the cows actually protect them from predators,” Roque said. “At the same time, our goal is for the hens to eat larvae to keep the fly population down while fertilizing our pastures.”

Before attending CSU, Chico, Roque judged for three years on the Brett Hart FFA poultry judging team. Roque wanted to expand her new-found love and appreciation for the poultry industry as she continued her education at the university level. She was almost deterred from making the decision to attend CSU, Chico because the university doesn’t have a large-scale commercial poultry unit. However, she learned about the pastured poultry project, which combined with her interest in agriculture business and animal nutrition sold her on accepting her admission. She also likes the fact that Chico is not too far from her hometown of Copperopolis, Calif.

Not long after starting at CSU, Chico as a freshman, Roque went to work selling organic beef and became active with the pastured poultry project. In 2010, Roque became manager of the pastured poultry project and an extremely active member on the dairy management team. In her dual-role with the dairy unit and poultry project, she is able to capitalize on what she is learning about in dairy cow and poultry nutrition to help the unit produce healthy cows and hens, which in turn produce nutritious milk and eggs. 

As manager, Roque is in charge of all aspects of the pasture poultry project. When the cows move from each pasture she makes sure the hens are moved as well. Every day she makes sure the eggs are collected, the portable hen house is accessible to the hens, and the hens are locked up during the night. She also takes care of their basic needs such as providing food and water and making sure they are healthy.  

“The professors and advisors teach more than just going to school,” Roque said. “You are in a real world situation at the University Farm and they basically tell you, here is what you need and you decide how to utilize the tools they provide.” As of the 2012 spring semester, Roque helped expand the pasture poultry project and acquire new hens. The project is now at capacity with 200 Red Star hens.  

Roque is not only getting a hands-on experience with the animal side of the poultry project, but she is learning the business aspects of a niche market as well. She makes sure eggs are sold weekly in three locations: Tuesdays in front of Plumas Hall, Wednesdays at the student market near the Student Services Center, and Thursdays and Fridays at the University Farm Meats Lab. Roque applies her business knowledge in keeping track of things such as break-even points and financial analysis. “Selling the eggs at the farm, student market, and in front of Plumas Hall educates the students at Chico State and the community about what is going on at the farm,” Roque said. “Community support makes agriculture thrive.”

Roque makes sure that any eggs that aren’t sold are donated to the local homeless shelter. Not only does she donate eggs to the homeless shelter, but she has put in over 300 hours of community service through a well known campus wide program, Community Action Volunteers in Action (CAVE). Roque is a group leader in CAVE for Chico Homeless Ambassadors and works as a tutor with the program “America Reads.” She has also volunteered as the poultry judging contest chair for the CSU, Chico/Butte College FFA Field Day since her freshman year.

Roque is a well-rounded student who takes advantage of the many opportunities CSU, Chico has to offer. When Roque has earned her bachelor’s degree in agriculture business and animal science, she plans to go on to graduate school to study animal nutrition. 

For more information about the pastured poultry project, or to place an order for eggs, e-mail ChicoStatePasturedPoultry@gmail.com.