|Cow awaits giving birth in the birthing center birth pen.|
The fair opens its 12-day run Thursday Aug. 22. The Dairy Birthing Center is located at the back of the fairgrounds behind the Talent Showcase and in between the 4-H and FFA buildings.
The birthing center has been a longtime dream of Jessica Ziehm, executive director of the New York Animal Agriculture Coalition. The coalition is a farmer founded and funded organization that strives to enhance the public’s understanding of and appreciation for animal agriculture and modern farm practices, according to its website.
Ziehm said other state fairs, such as Minnesota, Virginia and Iowa, have run birthing centers in the past and she thought it would be a great idea for the New York fair.
"This is one of the amazing miracles we see on the farm every day," said Ziehm, who was raised on a dairy farm and now lives with her husband Stuart on the family dairy farm in Washington County north of Albany.
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The cows have been induced, which Ziehm said is safe and common in the dairy industry. "It works very effectively in cattle because we know exactly when the cows are due," she said. This is because the cows are artificially inseminated, so exactly nine months after the insemination, the cows are ready to calve.
Ziehm said all the cows being brought in for the birthing center exhibit have given birth before and all are having only one calf. Veterinarians in private practice and those from the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine will be on hand for all the births.
There are bleachers set up on both sides of the birthing pen for the public to use while watching.
Dale Mattoon, a Cayuga County dairy farmer and chairman of the New York Animal Agriculture Coalition, brought the first batch of cows in for the birthing center.
"If you plan to be in the dairy business for the long haul, you need the public to understand why we do what we do," he said. "This is a great way to talk to the public about that."
The public is encouraged to ask questions of either the farmers or the vets while they are in the birthing center.
For youngsters, in the corner of the birthing center is a storytime site called "From Moo to You," which tells the story of today's dairy farmers.
Ziehm said the birthing center took six months to plan and "we're really excited to add it to the great New York State Fair."
"It all starts here folks," she said. "The production of milk wouldn't take place without the birth of baby calves."
Other farms donating cows for the birthing center are from Aurelius and Scipio Springs in Cayuga County, Odessa in Schuyler County, Lansing in Tompkins County and Skaneateles in Onondaga County.
To watch cameras in the birthing center while you're not at the fair or at the birthing center, go to www.vet.cornell.edu/news/NYSFair.