One minute with Cleo Garcia, bison herdsman

Cleo Garcia takes good care of the laboratory's herd of bison.

Cleo Garcia takes good care of the laboratory’s herd of bison.

How long have you worked at Fermilab?
A little over 14 years.

What brought you to Fermilab?
I used to work doing janitorial service, and I was looking for a better job. When I started working here, I helped the herdsman here at the time. I have a little background in cattle; I helped my uncle down in Mexico. So it’s almost the same. Then the herdsman left, and because I worked with him, they put me in charge of the animals. That was in 2010.

What’s a normal day like for you?
The first thing I do is come check on the animals, especially now in the calving season. Then I check fences or mow the grass or do some other Roads and Grounds chores. We try to let the bison roam freely by themselves within the pastures. It’s only in the winter when we supplement their diet with hay and grain. Otherwise we let them graze on their own.

What are the trickiest parts of the job?
There’s a day in the fall when we do vaccinations, and everybody helps out. We have to corral them, put them through a squeeze chute one by one, and tag the new ones or vaccinate the cows. You have to be really careful. The bison are really strong animals. We’re never inside the corrals ourselves, but when you’re moving the animals, they can react and charge you. We have a machine to move them around safely.

Have you ever been hurt?
No. It’s one of the jobs where you have to be very careful.

What do you like best about the job?
There’s always something new. I guess I’m not an office guy or a factory guy. I sometimes help with tours, and when you see the excitement of people looking at the calves, it makes you proud of what you’re doing. A lot of people from surrounding areas come just to see the bison.

What do your friends think when they find out what you do?
Sometimes they don’t even believe it. They don’t know there are bison here at Fermilab.

What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to camp with friends and family, and I support my children in sports activities. I enjoy spending my extra time working in my garden. I don’t think I could ever work inside. I like the outdoors.