November 15, 2005

Cornell Auctions Off Cows

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In fairytales, a child will trade a cow for some golden beans. At Cornell, agriculture students will trade (or sell) cows for a trip to Italy.

The Cornell University Dairy Society (CUDS), comprised of undergraduates who either come from dairy farms or who have an interest in some facet of the dairy industry, will fund a winter break tour of Parmigiano and Romano cheese processing operations through a bovine sale held earlier this month.

The NY Holstein Harvest Sale made the University the auction site for the type of milking cows most frequently seen on milk and dairy commercials. Holsteins come in two genetic varieties – black and white or red and white – and were selling for an average of $3,471 at the Livestock Pavilion at the end of Tower Road.

Dave Rama, an owner of The Cattle Exchange (Delhi, NY) served as the head auctioneer. Patsy Gifford of the NY Junior Holstein Association was responsible for getting cattle consignments. In total, 121 lots were sold. This included both live animals of varying ages and 10 embryos. The value of embryos is determined solely by the pedigree, milking capacity and conformation of parent cows.

CUDS members, advised by Prof. Mike Van Amburgh, animal science, played an integral role in the sale preparations. They worked to set up the pavilion so it was conducive to the large number of cows, and worked round-the-clock shifts to tend to the animals all week.

Since high production dairy cows produce milk constantly, the milking crew needed to make sure the cows were milked twice per day: once at 6 AM, and again at 6 PM. If milk builds up in a cow’s udder, it causes her undo stress and discomfort. Matt Fullerton ’05, a member of the milking crew, said that the process went smoother as the week progressed because cows got accustomed to the new environment and were relatively well-behaved.

The washing and clipping crews worked diligently to make sure the cows looked groomed and healthy for the sale.

On sale day, a number of donation items were auctioned off before the cows were led into the ring. These miscellaneous objects included a variety of pies baked by CUDS members. In fact, Susan A. Henry, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, bid $575 for a strawberry cheesecake! In terms of the cows, the average price obtained per cow was $3,471. The sale-topper was owned by Dan Murray ’08 of Muranda Holsteins and went for $20,000!

Van Amburgh was particularly pleased with the sale’s outcome. After deducting expenses, approximately $9,000 dollars was raised for the 97 CUDS members travelling to Italy. Yet the auction had value beyond monetary gains. Van Amburgh said, “Despite the hectic aura and demand for hard work, the sale was a great way to get to know the students better and have them bond through a common passion for the dairy industry.”

Archived article by Devan Flahive
Sun Contributor