The Ohio State Fair serves as an excellent “classroom on life” when it comes to the experiences our Animal Sciences students can be a part of. This year was no exception as many, with dairy interests, managed three separate programs that had a tremendous impact on relating to consumers.
The first was “milk a cow”, which focused on the old fashioned method of milking. Definitely a hands-on experience, fair goers had the opportunity to actually take a seat on a bale of straw and attempt to squeeze milk from some very cooperative Guernseys provided by the farm of John and Bonnie Ayars. Nearly 7,000 participants of all ages and sizes were given this task. Although those trying their hand at milking may not have been successful, students from our department were there to answer questions, provide directions, and practice some patience while connecting with the public. "Milk a cow" took place every day from 12 to 4pm. Also on the scene were trained individuals from ADA/Mideast who were signing off for the AG is Cool questions and discussing modern dairy farm practices. At most times, there was a long line, but the waiting fair goers found the time worthwhile as they chatted with the trained individuals that even included one of our students who was interning for the organization.
In that same area, there was the bovine maternity pen. Although some of the expectant mothers escaped the crowds by calving at night, Sarah Finney and Kristen Wright (recent graduates and incoming veterinary school students), were available 24/7 to monitor the pens, feed the calves, milk the cows for the "milk a cow" event, and answer hundreds of similar questions on how birth takes place. The cows and calves all had identities, and the students did a tremendous job speaking with the public on every detail, which even included a set of twins. Two other baby calves, Gingham and Calico (Brown Swiss misses), were there for the duration of the fair, and everyone was pleased to touch and observe their every movement. How could they tell which name belonged to which calf? Of course, it was by the gingham and calico ribbons that adorned each of their tails!
Not too far away was the milking parlor, which has the expansive window for all to observe. Those who paused could also hear the story of how cows are milked as a continuing audio projected over a speaker. However, the real service is what takes place on the other side of the windows. The parlor management duties are maintained by OSU dairy judging students. It is open daily from 5 to 8AM and 5 to 7:30 PM. On show days, the schedule is more rigorous with many hours between. All milk weights are recorded and later sent to the Purebred Dairy Cattle Association on a spreadsheet. From connecting with the public and exhibitors, to the business portion and mechanical issues, it is also about the image of cleanliness and milk quality in monitoring the bulk tank temperature. It is not a simple task and yet our judging students are there on the cutting edge of applying what is taught in our classrooms.
Let’s not forget “Buckeye Bessie” who made her appearance for Ohio Farm Bureau. She is the simulated cow with OSU logos, housed right here at the Waterman Complex, made possible through a grant with ADA/Mideast.
We should be proud of our student efforts and their image as everyone mentioned above planned these experiences around summer internships and jobs, family and exhibitor commitments, plus some classes.
It may take a village to raise a child, but our student experiences at the Ohio State Fair can continue an education!
-Bonnie Ayars, Dairy Program Specialist