Julia Nagel/Sun Photography Editor

On March 18, Cornellians and members of the Ithaca community gathered in the Livestock Pavilion for the Dairy Open House, organized by the Cornell University Dairy Science Club.

March 20, 2022

Student Organization Educates Cornellians on Dairy Farming at Open House

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On Friday, March 18, the Cornell University Dairy Science Club welcomed members of the Cornell and Ithaca community to a Dairy Open House at the Livestock Pavilion. 

Various campus agricultural organizations set up tables across the pavilion, complete with informational trifolds and giveaway items like stickers and cow-print masks, interactive games and activities and live cows. 

Many of the cattle present at the Dairy Open House were auctioned off the following day during the Spring Classic Sale, an event that has been held annually since 1982. According to CUDS Faculty Advisor Prof. Michael Van Amburgh, animal science, this year marks the third sale organized only by students.  

“We would normally have a sale associated with the New York State Holstein Association,” Van Amburgh said. “The animals would come here. We’d wash, clip feed, and get them ready for the sale and then we would take a certain percentage of the sale proceeds just to help [CUDS] when we started in ’82.”

The money raised from the sale funds numerous outreach opportunities and educational experiences organized by CUDS in addition to paying for services related to the sale, such as professional auctioneering and printing pedigree catalogs.

According to Van Amburgh, since 1998, the money raised from the sale has funded trips intended to further students’ understanding of food production and agriculture in places such as California, Italy, China and South America.

“To date, 1,047 students have taken these trips,” Van Amburgh said. “So, it’s not trivial. We make sure we make best use of the money by getting as many students involved as possible.” 

Although the trips used to be limited to CUDS members, Van Amburgh noted that the trips are now part of classes that students in any college can take for credit, as long as they sincerely want to learn more about agriculture.

“It’s not a vacation,” Van Amburgh said. “We are up at 6 a.m. in the morning and out the door at 6:30 a.m. We see things that a lot of people don’t get to see, so [the students] have to be on their best behavior.”

CUDS students led preparation for the Dairy Open House and the Spring Classic Sale. Their tasks included hand-selecting the dairy cattle auctioned off at the sale, a process which took more than two months to complete, according to Van Amburgh. Moreover, students were responsible for advertising both the Dairy Open House and the Classic Sale and meeting other logistic requirements. 

Emily Starceski ’23, president of CUDS, said that the planning process began at the beginning of the fall 2021 semester The CUDS executive board met very early on in the school year to ensure the reservation of the Pavilion and the consignments of the animals present at the event. 

Megan Lamb ’22 and Danielle Del Conte ’22, the co-chairs of public relations for CUDS, advertised the event via social media and on campus via posters and chalking. 

Josh Spicer ’23, a transfer student, joined CUDS upon arriving at Cornell in the fall and successfully acquired donations of bedding and feed for the cows, which were then delivered to the venue. Correspondence with donors regarding the acquisition of these materials began in January, Spicer said.

“The hay we donated from our farm back home,” Spicer said. “We have connections throughout different lumber mills throughout the country, or throughout the state that were able to donate some supplies to the sale.”

Many students present at the Dairy Open House represented many of Cornell’s other agricultural organizations, such as Alpha Gamma Rho and Sigma Alpha — the agricultural fraternity and sorority, respectively — Block and Bridle, the Agricultural Society, Beef Club, Cornell’s Farm Bureau chapter and the Dairy Princesses

Mikala Anderson ’24 is a member of most of the organizations that were present at the Dairy Open House, and is the vice president of Block and Bridle and Sigma Alpha. 

“I think the most important thing [about this event] is teaching people about farmers and what they’re trying to do,” Anderson said. “It’s just all about sharing some knowledge and getting everyone excited.”

Anderson said that the Dairy Open House allowed her, as well as other members of her organizations, to meet new people and recruit new members to further educate people about the importance of the dairy industry. 

Starceski added that hosting a Dairy Open House is an important way to create a safe space for interested individuals to learn more about agriculture and see animals for the first time. 

“I think it’s really cool that we’re such a large campus,” Starceski said. “There is a large variety of people [here], and I think this is finally our opportunity to show people what we’re about and give them the opportunity to ask questions to their peers.”