Dairy Cow Birthing Center a true highlight of State Fair

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This is another installment in a series of columns highlighting the area’s agricultural community.

I can’t believe it’s already September. It seems like the summer flew by.

These last couple weeks, you could find me at the New York State Fair, volunteering in the Dairy Cow Birthing Center.

The Birthing Center is put on by the New York Animal Agriculture Coalition with the generous donations of many awesome sponsors. NYAAC is a farmer-founded and funded organization whose mission is to enhance the public’s understanding of and appreciation for animal agriculture by fostering a dialogue with consumers, engagement with farmers and cooperation among members of the industry.

Eileen Jensen, its executive director, and Hannah Johnson, the communications manager, are in charge of setting up and running this great exhibit.

I’m on the Birthing Center Advisory Committee, and I’m very grateful Eileen and Hannah allow me to volunteer there as many days as I do; I bring my camper up and stay right at the fairgrounds.

The Birthing Center brings four pregnant cows to the Fair every two days from nine different farms. If Mother Nature cooperates, we have two calves every day for the length of the Fair.

Sometimes the cows have other ideas and they will wait until the middle of the night, or we might get three in one day or just one on one day. Our twin streak is still alive as well. For the eight years the Birthing Center has been in existence, we’ve had at least one set of twins, sometimes more, born at the State Fair.

If you’re not at the Fair, you can still watch a birth on NYAAC’s YouTube channel. You can sign up for texts then you can jump on their YouTube channel and watch the birth.

Texts are sent out when the cow’s water has broken, and we can see feet.

Calves come into the world Superman style: Front feet and nose first. The exhibit is a great opportunity for the non-farming community to see something they would never generally see otherwise, the birth of a baby cow — it never gets old, not even for me.

I still get excited, every single time. After two days, the cows and calves are sent back to their home farm and another four cows come in from a different farm. It’s fun answering questions and having people see a glimpse of the start of life on the farm.

I’ve had some great conversations with people that are interested in how dairy farmers take care of their animals.

After all, there’s no udder place for the answer!

If you have questions, you can always ask a farmer. We’ve never stopped knowing how to take great care of our animals.

I also occasionally get to help with a birth, feed a newborn calf, sell dairy products and merchandise — and hopefully make a difference for the dairy industry.

I’ve met great people and made lifelong friends that I cherish.

If you’d like to learn more about NYAAC, visit their webpage at www.nyanimalag.org, follow them on Facebook at NY Animal Agriculture Coalition or Instagram at nyanimalag. They do many fun and interesting projects during the year!

I’m already looking forward to next year’s State Fair, and, of course, getting to volunteer at the Dairy Cow Birthing Center!

— For comments or suggestions on the Farming in Central New York series of articles, e-mail Daily Sentinel
photojournalist John Clifford at jclifford@RNYmedia.com
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