Pignic Table: Capstone in Animal and Dairy Sciences

Note: This blog post was written by a group of students in the Capstone in Animal and Dairy Sciences course.

Welcome to the Pignic Table! On March 25, 2017, we participated in a community outreach event called Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food. Our station represented the swine industry, and we were prepared to address any concerns that the public might have had about the industry.


We had a market gilt on display for everyone to look at, and for the kids to pet. We also had an activity for the kids to ear notch pigs on a paper plate. We had several participants considering the weather, and many of which had several questions. Some of the questions asked included why we ear notch pigs, why we dock tails, and how old is the gilt on display. It was quite interesting to see how many people did not know very much about the swine industry, and how they reacted to our answers to their questions.

There were also quite a few people who didn’t have any questions, they just wanted to pet the pig. The kids seemed especially excited to be able to pet the pig, however, our gilt was not very cooperative. She was having the time of her life in the mud. The weather did not cooperate that day, and we were forced to move inside. This did not seem to affect our activities, it was still fun, just a little bit muddier than it would have been had it not rained. The only thing the weather affected was the crowd turnout. Not many people got out that morning to come pay us a visit because of the rain.

Overall, it was a good experience, and a good opportunity to inform the public about the swine industry. The only way that it would have been better is if the weather had cooperated. Then, we could have had many more participants.

A New Fleece on Life: Capstone in Animal and Dairy Sciences

Note: This blog post was written by a group of students in the Capstone in Animal and Dairy Sciences course.


At the beginning of the semester, we were assigned to the sheep group. The five of us began to brainstorm about all of the wonderful things we could potentially teach our community. Our first task as a group was to create a fun and interesting name for our group. We came up with “A New Fleece on Life”.



After naming our group, we sat down with Ms. Jennifer Prather of the Greater Starkville Development Partnership to discuss our target audiences and learn about some of the marketing strategies. In class, we developed more on our ideas and narrowed in on the few ideas we thought would be the most engaging. One of our main topics throughout all of our ideas was to try to disprove many of the myths that plague the sheep industry. One of the biggest myths is that sheep have to be slaughtered whenever they are shorn – the process of removing wool. To disprove this, our group used a diagram that showed the process of carefully removing the wool so that it all comes off as one piece. Many of our guests asked how often a sheep has to be shorn to which we answered once yearly as the weather starts to become consistently hot.


One of the most exciting events for our younger community members to do was to pet the sheep, which we dubbed Sassy. Many of the guests had never been close to a sheep, much less touched it and felt the wool and the greasy lanolin. Many of our older guests were surprised to learn that lanolin came solely from sheep. They assumed that it was a plant based product or did not ever really wonder where it came from. People were very interested to know how the lanolin was extracted from the wool. We also provided an interactive poster for people to learn the differences in sheep and goats. We had several pictures of sheep and goats with shaggy or wool-like coats as well as sheep and goats with and without horns. Initially, no one was able to tell us which were sheep and which were goats with any degree of certainty. Some guessed the easy ones, but were stumped by the hair sheep.


Overall, even with the challenge of fighting with rainstorms and having to move inside the barn. Our group had a good time and was really glad we got to help educate our community on what sheep farmers do and why we do certain things within the industry that outsiders may not understand.


Farm to Family: Capstone in Animal and Dairy Sciences

Note: This blog post was written by a group of students in the Capstone in Animal and Dairy Sciences course.

During the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food event on March 25, our group was tasked with educating participants about Animal Products. Our station was called “Farm to Family,” and those who chose to brave the rain to attend our community service learning event were given the chance to interact with our group through a guessing game about what products come from animals.


At our station, we set up a table that displayed several products of either animal or non-animal origin, and we chose to have items to focus on that were not the obvious, well known food products such as meat, milk, and cheese. We asked participants to identify a couple items which they thought contained animal products. Some items that come from animal products that we put on display included dryer sheets, make-up, candy, candles, and plastic bags. Other items, of non-animal origin, that we displayed were light bulbs, bleach, oatmeal, and Jell-O.


It was surprising to many people that some of the previously mentioned products come from animals. We did notice that most of the children who attended were only interested in the candy products and live animals from other groups. However, we felt that the adults who came through our station were very enthusiastic and eager to learn about the common household items we displayed that contained animal products.

As a group, we felt that it was very important to emphasize that every bit of animals that are harvested is utilized in some way. While it was hard to catch, and keep the attention of the youth who attended the event, we hope that the information we relayed to their parents and chaperones will be used at home to teach kids where their everyday items such as crayons, paint, candles, make-up, etc. come from. We would have loved the opportunity to interact with and educate a larger number of participants, however the weather decided otherwise. Overall, we greatly enjoyed this service learning project and hope that participants who attended learned a lot and enjoyed their time at the MSU Dairy.

Farm to Filet: Capstone in Animal and Dairy Sciences

Note: This blog post was written by a group of students in the Capstone in Animal and Dairy Sciences course.

What started as a dreary, rainy day ended up being a day full of learning and excitement for both the public and us. We educated the Starkville community on the different beef cattle operations and where the different meat cuts are located on beef cattle. Our station, “Farm to Filet”, was set up with a poster explaining the overview of the beef industry, a dairy cow that had the different meat cuts painted on, and an interactive game called the “Grocery Game”. It was entertaining to see both kids and adults play the game and see their reaction to their answers. The only three beef items in the grocery store were a steak, deli roast beef, and a hamburger. Needless to say, we had some pretty interesting results!

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Many adults pulled out the pork chop mistaking it for a steak. We had kids that overlooked the hamburger many times and some even pulled out bacon as their answer. One little boy, when asked where did he think a hamburger came from, grinningly replied, “A human”! For that little boy, it was true. He had only ever gotten hamburgers from his parents who gave him a hamburger for supper or from people at fast-food restaurants. This project was a wonderful teaching opportunity for us and the public. The public had an opportunity to see where their food comes from and we discovered how much the public really knew about the beef cattle industry. We met people of various ages and backgrounds, who all had a various level of experience and understanding of livestock production.

Most of the public were very inquisitive about where the meat cuts were located on beef cattle. Many people asked about ground chuck, sirloin, filet mignon, and New York strips. We had two young ladies who asked why the filet mignon is more tender than other steaks. We didn’t have one question that we could not answer; however, we did face a challenge when trying to explain certain concepts. We had to take industry specific terms and complex information we were taught previously and make it intelligible for our public so they could easily understand.


Overall, we feel that the community engagement fair was a success! As animal scientists, we felt it was our responsibility to reach out to the public and show them what goes on in the beef industry and help teach or clarify information for our public. We feel that by us reaching out to the public and showing them what goes on in the agriculture industry will help eliminate negativity that sometimes surrounds our industry. It is gratifying to know the potential impact we made on those people that came to community engagement fair that day. Now that a few more people know where there beef comes from, it means that the potential education opportunities for the beef industry look bright!

Amazin’ Grazin-Capstone in Animal and Dairy Sciences

Note: This blog post was written by a group of students in the Capstone in Animal and Dairy Sciences course.


At the Amazin’ Grazin station we talked about all areas of the pasture based dairy industry. We were located in one of the two barns located in the dairy which did not affect our presentation too much. We collected samples of the different grasses and feed substitutes which we put in containers as visual aids for the guests (mainly kids) so that they could have something to play with. We brought up a dairy cow from the pasture and put her in the barn so that we could reference the different colored ear tags that the pasture based dairy cattle have as apposed to the ones that stay in the barn.

Although we were in the barn we could still see the center pivot irrigation off in the distance so we could point that out to the guests and explain to them its role in pasture based dairy. Although the weather changed up our plans a little bit we were still able to use most of our ideas.

We had some great interaction with the community of people that attended this event despite the weather that day. One that really stands out was our very first visitor. She told us that she came not only to learn about dairy cows but also how the different food products that are produced from a dairy can affect her health. She was just told by her doctor that she needed to change the way that eats and drinks and she was so excited when she heard about this learning opportunity that we were putting on for the community.


We had many other great interactions with different people from all walks of life. The kids seemed to enjoy playing in the different types of grasses that we brought and the parents seemed interested in how pasture based milk is different from barn raised dairy cattle. Overall, our group had a very fun time educating and interacting with the many different people from our local community.


Feed the bugs-Capstone in Animal and Dairy Sciences

Note: This blog post was written by a group of students in the Capstone in Animal and Dairy Sciences course.

CapstoneGroupPicIn 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!

All the Feeds for All their Needs-Capstone in Animal and Dairy Sciences

Note: This blog post was written by a group of students in the Capstone in Animal and Dairy Sciences course.

On Saturday, March 25, Mississippi State University Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences hosted an event open to the public, “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food.” This event walked consumers through the Mississippi State University Dairy Farm to different stations that were each focused on a different aspect of farming and geared to help inform the public and answer any questions that they may have had about the industry. At our station, “All the Feeds for All their Needs,” we spoke to visitors about what is fed to livestock, why it is fed to them, and how it is processed. We also helped to clear up some confusion on the popular concern that low quality feedstuff is fed to livestock and causes several health issues.


The day started out rainy and stormy, but luckily the weather did not keep the crowd away. We had to be relocated inside, but this actually worked to our benefit because it provided an additional visual for visitors to see the feed combination we were talking about actually being fed to the cattle. Our station had two parts and the first was focused on specifically discussing the parts of the feed given to the dairy cattle on the Mississippi State University farm. We discussed differences in corn silage and alfalfa baleage, both nutritionally and in how they are made. We also discussed the prebatch given as a supplement to help complete the dairy diet nutritionally which often led to the discussion of the use of byproducts as feed and how feedstuff can vary regionally based upon what nutrients are available at the lowest cost.


Discussions led to our belief that a common misconception is in vocabulary used by the farmer to speak to the public. It appeared that what most people were concerned about was that feed fed to the cattle was of “cheap” quality and not just the lowest cost. We had to explain to several people that when farmers feed their livestock the cheapest source of nutrients, the nutrients themselves are not inferior and provide adequate nutrition for the animals’ needs. This probably has to do with the advertising of human food that claims that the more expensive food is the better food.

Our second station consisted of a table set up to allow our younger audience to have a hands on experience of how silage is made. We used Easter grass and containers to allow to children to fill their “silos” with grass so that they could feed the cows. Overall, we think the experience was a good one, it was neat to help interact and educate the public on what is actually fed to livestock and help to settle any concerns they may have had about information given to them from variable sources.


Photos courtesy of: Office of Agricultural Communications, MSU Extension Service

Milking Mania-Capstone in Animal and Dairy Sciences

Note: This blog post was written by a group of students in the Capstone in Animal and Dairy Sciences course.

This group included students whose familiarity with dairy operations ranged from having never been to the Bearden Dairy Research Unit to those who were familiar with the daily operations. We were assigned the milking parlor portion of the tour. Our station was unique since it was essentially three stations in one. We had the parlor itself, a cow to be hand milked, and the milk room to show visitors.

As guest approached our station, they were given information about the breeds of dairy cow located at the MSU dairy. The breeds of dairy cattle housed on the farm are Holstein, Jersey, and a crossbreed of the two. There was an explanation of what the cows are known for. Holsteins are known for the amount of milk they produce, and Jerseys are known for their milk fat. The type of milking parlor being used was also explained to visitors.

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Upon entering the milking parlor guests were given an opportunity to experience a behind the scenes glimpse at how milk is obtained from the dairy cows. A brief description about the mechanics of the parlor was first given, for example, how the cows are positioned.  Each step of the milking process was then explained from cleaning each teat to obtaining the last drop of milk. Guest were allowed to touch the equipment to have a better understanding of how each part worked.

Over at the hands-on portion of our station, we had a four year old Holstein cow named Magnolia Rochelle. She is in her second lactation and produces about 130 pounds of milk per day which is the equivalent of 18-19 gallons of milk a day between the morning and afternoon milkings. Visitors loved getting to pet her and learning how to hand milk. The kids were the most interested in milking her. The adults were amazed at just how much milk a dairy cow can produce in a day.


In the milk room, visitors were shocked that cattle’s body temperature was so much warmer than ours, which is why the milk they produce is 102 degrees Fahrenheit. The milk that was produced that morning was already at about 38 degrees Fahrenheit. The visitors were interested in the sheer size of the milk tank and how “hands off” the handling process was. The drain was pointed out to show what happens to the milk if traces of antibiotics are found, since no milk is allowed to be used if it contains antibiotics.

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The age range of visitors went from toddlers all the way to the elderly. Our group had to be able to adapt to the variety of ages as well as the different knowledge the visitors had about farm animals. The weather also did not help communication. By being able to adapt to our audience and our environment, we were able to help consumers “Know Their Farmer.”

A Bed Fit for a Queen-Capstone in Animal and Dairy Sciences

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.
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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.

Moo-ving On Out of Mama’s House-Capstone in Animal and Dairy Sciences

Note: This blog post was written by a group of students in the Capstone in Animal and Dairy Sciences course.

On March 25, 2017, we had the privilege of bringing the  “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” educational outreach program to the Joe Bearden Dairy Research Center here in Starkville, MS. Our group’s station for the event, “Moo-ving On Out of Mama’s House”, sought to examine and shed light on some of the common practices used throughout the dairy industry regarding calf management. Specifically, we looked into calf separation, nutrition, housing, and overall healthcare.

Wanting to give guests an up-close and personal look into the dairy industry, we brought out a seven-day-old bull calf (nicknamed “James”) for children and adults alike to interact with. Despite having to relocate our station to the dairy’s old parlor due to the weather, James was still kept in his hutch with free choice water in an effort to simulate the real housing conditions of many dairy calves. James proved to be the perfect sidekick when it came to winning the hearts of visiting families. We saw little kids’ eyes grow wide when they realized they would get to help feed James with a bottle.


Besides the fact that getting to witness the next generation develop a passion for agriculture alone made the event’s significance undeniable, this interaction also allowed us to spark some educational conversations. We discussed with both children and parents why James’ hutch keeps him healthy and warm, why we need to provide colostrum soon after a calf is born, and even the important topic of why we separate the cow and calf. While the kids continued interacting with James, parents took the time to dig a little deeper and ask specific questions. Many parents were intrigued by the type of starter diet the calves are fed, how long they remain in the hutches, and whether the calves are housed in groups or alone. These questions created dialogues about the different dairy breeds, cow and calf management protocols, and even genetic selection differences between beef and dairy cattle.

We were somewhat surprised to find how genuinely interested everyone seemed to be in trying to educate themselves and their families about where their food comes from. It was a true joy for our group to share our knowledge with them throughout the event. This was a learning experience for us as well as we were able to reach out to the general public, apply our knowledge, and share with them the facts surrounding our agriculture industry as a whole and why we are so passionate about it.