Note: This blog post was written by a group of students in the Capstone in Animal and Dairy Sciences course.
Our station was titled “A Bed Fit for a Queen” and focused on dairy cattle housing in the South.
We were in the free-stall barn and utilized the barn as a visual aid to show the public how dairy cattle lived. By having cattle in the barn, it allowed the public to see exactly how the cattle lived daily. In the South, we use sand as bedding; however, other places use different types of bedding. We had 3 different types of bedding available such as sand, straw, and shavings to allow the public to feel the differences. It was a good interactive activity that emphasized why sand is a better bedding option for our cattle in the South.
Being fortunate enough to fully utilize the barn, we were able to explain why the stalls are raised. It also showed first-hand how most cows only defecate and urinate in the concrete alleys making it a cleaner environment than the public may perceive. At one point, Mr. Kenneth washed out the alleyways giving a prime example of how the concrete is beneficial and how sanitation is valued at a dairy operation. Also, we had many participants ask when the cattle were allowed outside. Being beside the maternity pen, we were given the opportunity to disperse the myth that cattle are always kept indoors on hard ground. The public learned that cows were put on pasture when calving or for a few months during their dry period. This also led to the explanation of how we can control the feed and nutrients given to the cattle when they are kept indoors to ensure they receive all the nutrients necessary to upkeep maintenance energy and milk production. In addition, it allowed us to explain how important the milk quality is affected by the feed a cow consumes. Furthermore, we pointed out the fans and misters to emphasize the importance of keeping the cows stress-free. This tied into the idea that keeping them indoors can be more beneficial for their health since we can control the environment they live in especially during the hot summer months.
Overall, the weather did not affect our group as we were already scheduled to be inside. The only change it made was we had to share the barn we were in. It would have been more convenient to use the entire barn, but it went smoothly.
In conclusion, our station went off without a hitch. We had interactive participants that enjoyed feeling the different types of bedding and being able to see first-hand how the cattle lived. We believe the public now has a more positive view on dairy cattle housing and understands more behind why we keep our cattle indoors.