UMD Dairy Herd Draws Crowds at MD State Fair

From left: Steven Moirano, Melissa Shaughnessy, Patrick Creighton, Amber Lopez and Lance Brody

Image Credit: Gail Yeiser

September 9, 2013 Sara Gavin

While hanging out with a herd of dairy cows inside a barn for 11 straight days might not seem like a dream job to many, a group of students from the University of Maryland’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (AGNR) saw it as an opportunity to promote something they’re passionate about.

“A lot of people don’t know where their milk comes from,” says junior animal science major Lance Brody. “To be able to teach people about where their food comes from is really fun and feels really important.”

Throughout the Maryland State Fair in Timonium, Brody and four other students from the College of AGNR spent their days showing off UMD’s very own dairy herd to fairgoers. Normally housed at the university’s research facility in Clarksville, the dairy cows are transported to the state fair each year to participate in milking demonstrations and help educate the public about agriculture and dairy production.

The students arose early each morning to wash, groom and feed the cows to keep them looking sharp for visitors. They spent their days encouraging people to interact with the herd and fielding a myriad of questions.

“I love talking to people,” says Patrick Creighton, a senior animal science major, who would like to pursue a career in agricultural education. “The teaching part is the most fun.”

Each year fairgoers are invited to help name one of the herd’s newest calves. This year’s participant (pictured left) was born the first morning of the fair and was a popular attraction inside the Cow Palace. The 100-pound “little one” was ultimately named Clarabelle by passersby who took time to cast a vote.

“People are fascinated by the calves’ weight (at birth) but  really the ratio to the mother’s weight is no different than with people,” says Melissa Shaughness, a sophomore animal science major. “They don’t realize the cows weigh 1,300 pounds or so when they’re fully grown.”

While their days often lasted from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m., this group of students found the hard work and long hours well worth it, especially considering the company they got to keep.

“Doctors should prescribe cows for medicine,” says Melissa. “They’re so calm and chill. I love this job.”

To see more pictures of the College of AGNR in action at the 2013 Maryland State Fair, visit our photo gallery!

Also, read more about the University of Maryland’s Dairy Farm in the current issue of MomentUM Magazine.