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ISU opens teaching dairy to public tour

By Staff | Jun 13, 2014

RHEA WILGENBUSCH gets a chance to pet a calf on June 4 with the help from Amanda Robinson, a graduate student in animal physiology, at during the ISU Dairy’s sixth annual open house.

AMES – The sixth annual open house at the Iowa State University dairy farm was held on June 4, providing providing visitors a behind-the-scenes look at the farm’s operations.

The farm, three miles south of ISU’s campus, opened in 2007 as a teaching, research and outreach facility for ISU students and the public.

The dairy farm consists of several facilities including a holding area where cows wait to be milked; a special needs/hospital barn where staff works with ISU veterinarians caring for sick or injured animals; the maternity/calf barn; dry cow/transition barn; heifer barns; hay storage; machinery; bedding; and silage; the milking center and the student/animal interaction building.

Lucas Krueger, a tour guide and graduate student studying dairy calf nutrition, explained the daily routines followed in several of the buildings and answered visitors’ questions.

ISU’s dairy farm has many features that separate it from other dairies, but yet shows similarities.

THE AG DISCOVERY CENTER featured various activities for visitors including petting a calf, mixing their own feed rations and having dairy treats including yogurt, ice cream and milk.

“We are different because we have the ability to manage cows and research them on an individual basis,” said Krueger. “But it also has much of the same setup of a commercial dairy farm.”

Throughout the heifer barns, Krueger said, each heifer has access to fresh water and each as its own “dinner plate.”

This works with a coordinating magnet on the cow to open its own, individual feeder.

Krueger said it takes the heifer just a short time to figure out which feeder is hers. This allows staff to conduct individual feed efficiency trials as well other research studies.

When it comes to breeding, Krueger said bulls are sold when they are young, so all breeding is done by artificial insemination.

IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY’S dairy farm hosted its sixth annual open house on June 4. The 887-acre farm is just south of Ames and has more than 370 milking cows that produce about 78 pounds of milk per day.

“We use artificial insemination to breed cows in a timely manner by our professional staff,” said Krueger. “We will breed them when they are at 12 to 14 months.”

Bred animals are moved to the maternity/calf barn where they will receive a special diet and are given individual beds of sand to make them more comfortable to help develop a healthy calf.

“This is the future of our dairy right here,” said Krueger.

After a cow gives birth, the mother and calf are separated almost instantly, for health reasons, with the calves being taken to the nursery.

In the nursery, each calf is given its own “crib” and is bottle fed.

“It’s our job as ag entities to educate... where food comes from.” —Chris Freland ISDA associate director

“Just like we take care of our own, we take care of our cows,” he said.

At the age of 2 months, the calves will begin eating grass and are moved to the heifer barn, segregated by age.

They will remain in the barn until they are old enough to start milking.

Krueger said the manure is stored on the farm’s 2.5 million gallon liquid manure tank, which is emptied twice a year.

The dairy farm, Krueger said, us a good land steward. The manure is injected into the ground and used as fertilizer.

After the tour, visitors strolled through the hospitality center – a hoop structure.

Inside the center, was a variety of activities for children including making their own feed rations, petting a calf, coloring, planting a kernel of corn, getting a first-hand look at an actual cow’s stomach and enjoy various dairy snacks.

Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Food and Family Project, Iowa Beef Association, Iowa Corn Association, Midwest and the Iowa State Dairy Associations, Hiland Dairy, Land O’Lakes and Hy-Vee were among those on hand at the hospitality center with various booths providing snacks and educational opportunities.

“Less than 2 percent of our population is connected to agriculture,” said Chris Freland, associate director for the Iowa State Dairy Association. “And it’s our job as ag entities to educate them where food comes and the value it brings.

“Dairy is nature’s perfect food. There is so much nutrition in an 8-ounce serving.”

Lily Hauge was having fun petting a calf and said she learned a few things at the open house.

“It was awesome, and I couldn’t believe that when the milk comes out of the cow that it is 100 degrees,” said Hauge.

Open house sponsors included Iowa State University, Midwest Dairy Association, Hy-Vee, Iowa State Dairy Association, Western Iowa Dairy Alliance, Swiss Valley Farms, The Dairy Foundation, Land O’Lakes Milk and Robert’s Dairy Foods.

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