A Correctional Officer at the Rhode Island Department of Corrections’ Maximum Security prison since April of 1989, Aubrey (Buster) Andrews completely changes gears when his shift ends at 3 p.m. That’s when he trades in his CO uniform for work boots and jeans and focuses on his six prize winning dairy cattle at Briarberry Farm in West Greenwich.
Officer Andrews has been showing cattle since the age of 12 and now has his own daughters, ages 12 and 14, involved both on the farm and traveling around the country with him and their livestock. They took the Grand Champion and Reserve Grand ribbons at the Washington County Fair last August and spent Labor Day weekend at the Woodstock (Connecticut) Fair. One of his cattle was nominated Junior All American, a first for a red and white Holstein from Rhode Island, at a competition in Madison, WI, last fall. They show at the Eastern States Exposition (Big E) every year and this year, he will be the Big E’s Red & White Breed Representative, which involves finding sponsors, seeing that everyone gets paid, making sure the appropriate banners and ribbons are made, and finding and making travel arrangements for the judge.
“From August to October, I’m out straight,” Officer Andrews says. “I use up all of my vacation time and my wife stays home to take care of things there.” There is little relief from the demanding work with his cattle. “They have to be milked twice a day every day. There are no holidays or weekends in this business,” he adds. “Calves are coming all the time.” In December of last year, Briarberry Farm had four births. Normally they have between five and 10 a year, but that has increased every year. His mom and dad are available to help out when a birth is in progress and he has to be at work, but his colleagues know he may be called away in emergencies. With cattle worth between five and ten thousand dollars, he can’t afford to lose one, although occasionally a calf is stillborn. The birthing process is demanding and most of the time rope is needed to get the calves out of the mother.
Given the $1,000/month cost to feed his cattle, Officer Andrews’ “other” job is more than a hobby, it’s a business. He’s hoping to double the number of cattle on his farm by next year and is starting to breed and sell cattle. He’ll travel to a national spring show and sale in Syracuse, NY, to try and sell those who are ready and recover some of what he’s invested in them. While his focus now is more on genetics than production, he hopes to get a contract to sell dairy products through one of the area dairies in the near future. For now, he markets embryos and uses his own calves’ embryos to put in recipient calves. The embryos can be frozen in a liquid nitrogen tank, which he purchased, and a vet from Tufts comes to do the transfer work to the tune of about $500 per “flush.” Officer Andrews does as much of the veterinary work as he’s able, including administering medications and giving injections.
A 4-H assistant leader, Officer Andrews volunteers his time with a number of organizations and is pleased to note his older daughter’s involvement with Future Farmers of America (FFA). His wife, Karen, is somewhat involved with the cattle business but didn’t grow up with it the way he did. He describes her as “a city girl,” yet acknowledges that veryone in the family now plays a role in keeping the business running smoothly.