Note: This blog post was written by a group of students in the Capstone in Animal and Dairy Sciences course.
In the “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” community farm day, our group’s main focus was Animal Nutrition. Since this is a broad topic, we decided to mainly concentrate on three smaller components: the six basic nutrients, the differences in livestock digestive systems, and animal nutrition research. To supplement our presentation, our group created three large posters with color-coded digestive organs and their function.
First, we applied what we learned in our Nutrition class to create our posters. Each poster corresponded to a different digestive tract type and showed how nutrients were broken down differently. After explaining the six basic nutrients, we would start with the mouth and teeth to demonstrate how each animal distinctively acquired its food. Then we would continue through the digestive system, describing the function of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and, in some animals, the cecum and reticulo-rumen.
Then, we explained to our audience the importance of nutritional research, including fistulated cows and the use of Calan feeding systems. We had a fistulated cow near our station that visitors could observe, as we described how researchers can take samples directly from the cow’s rumen. We also used the example of humans taking probiotics to explain how a healthy cow’s rumen bacteria could be used to aid a cow with a microbial imbalance. Calan doors, which are special feeding troughs to help with feed research, were also visible as an educational tool.
The rainy weather did not have a negative effect on our presentation because our station was in the covered free-stall barn. This location also gave us an advantage because we were able to utilize the cows as models for our station. The visitors really enjoyed getting to observe the cows, especially the children. They had the opportunity to pet the cows, touch the feed, and observe some normal bovine behavior.
We had many positive visitor interactions; one woman was really interested in our station because of her own digestive health, and she asked several questions. Another gentleman was very involved in agriculture, and he definitely challenged our knowledge with some questions about different feed and nutrient digestion. Many visitors were intrigued by the fistulated cow, so several questions were directed towards our “holey cow,” which gave us a great opportunity to talk about the importance of research. Our favorite visitor experiences involved guests who had grown up around dairy cows or other livestock animals. Several specifically said that our event reminded them of their childhood experiences.
In conclusion, our group enjoyed presenting our topic to the public. We loved getting to interact with guests and explaining the importance of Nutrition to them. We hope that our visitors enjoyed it as much as we did!