Monday, August 25, 2014

Dairy Day Filled with Fun, Real-Life Heartache

By Debra J. Groom

It was all about dairy on Monday for Dairy Day at the Great New York State Fair.

Here’s the lo-down on what happened.

Cow is sutured after a C-section in the Dairy Cow Birthing Center
Dairy Drama

The only way any dairy product makes its way to our plates, bowls or cups is with the birth of a calf.

Once a dairy calf is born, the mother cow begins producing milk which the farmer collects, sells to processors and then it is made into yummy fluid milk, ice cream, all sorts of cheeses, sour cream, cream, butter and yogurt.

Fairgoers – for the second straight year – get the chance to witness this “udder miracle” of birth each day at the Dairy Cow Birthing Center. Put on by the New York Animal Agriculture Coalition and its director Jessica Ziehm, three calves are born each day at the fair.

But on Dairy Day, things were different. Fairgoers not only got to witness birth, but they got to see the real nitty-gritty of farm life. They got to see that sometimes, things don’t go well.

A 5-year-old Holstein from Walnut Ridge Dairy in Lansing, Tompkins County, went into labor about 8 a.m. Most expected her calf to be born about noon or a little after.

Another cow gave birth about 11 a.m. – a little bull. The Dairy Cow Birthing Center was packed with more than 600 people anxiously awaiting the second birth.

But something was wrong. Steve Palladino, a partner on the Lansing farm, said the labor wasn’t progressing normally. Veterinarians from Cornell University who are working the fair came in to check her out.

Donning their long plastic sleeves, they pushed their arms deep inside the cow’s vagina and uterus. Their diagnosis – there might be two calves (which is rare), the calf or calves are in the wrong position to be born or the calf or calves may be stillborn.

The vets tried to get the calf or calves out the normal way, but it didn’t work. They believed the calf or calves were deformed.

A C-section had to be performed right there, right in the Dairy Cow Birthing Center.

“This is Steve’s cow and he cares very much about all his animals,” Ziehm told the crowd. “This is the best move for the cow.”

Little bull calf born earlier on Monday
The fairgoers were told this would be a bit messy and traumatic and they should decide whether they want to stay for the operation. “Sometimes what happens on the farm doesn’t smell good and doesn’t look good,” Ziehm said. “But unfortunately, sometimes things go wrong when you’re dealing with life.”

The vets gave the cow a local anesthetic, shaved the area where the incision could be made, cleaned the area numerous times, and then made the cut on her left side. This side faced away from all fairgoers but is the normal side for a C-section incision, Palladino said.

When the vet finally cut through to the uterus, he and everyone else still wasn’t sure what he would find. He pulled out one calf – it was deformed and stillborn. There wasn’t a second calf.

A collective “awwwwww” moved through the barn.

The cow was stitched up and will be fine. She will undergo a series of antibiotics to cut down on the chances of infection.

Ziehm, who grew up on a dairy farm and married a dairy farmer, said she had never seen a C-section on a cow. It is quite rare.

“This was not ideal,” Ziehm said. But she said it was important to go ahead with the C-section right there in front of the public to “enhance the transparency” of what farmers do to care for their animals. She said they didn’t want it to be secretive so the public would wonder what they are doing to the cow.

“This is real life and everything we’re doing is for the health of this cow,” Ziehm said during the C-section. “This is as transparent as it’s going to get.”

This was the cow's third calf. Palladino said she will be able to have another calf in the future.

Frank Adamski, right, of the Dairy Products Building Task Force, holds a block of cheese for auctioneer Bill Magee, left.
Do I hear $25?

Assemblyman William Magee, D-Nelson, Madison County, was back at the State Fair again in his role as auctioneer during the annual Cheese Auction. Bricks of sharp New York state cheddar – ranging in size from 2 pounds to 40 pounds – are sold to raise money for the Dairy Products Building.   

He auctioned off 22 bricks of cheese and four baskets filled with various cheeses from New York producers such as Kraft, Yancey’s Fancy, Heluva Good, Great Lakes Cheese, Macadam, Colosse, Herkimer Cheese and Sorrento.

Magee, who is chair of the state Assembly Agriculture committee, also works as an auctioneer.

Yogurt Bar a hit

A yogurt parfait with strawberries and blueberries
People were lined up throughout the day to get a parfait made of regular or Greek yogurt at the new YO2GO yogurt bar in the Dairy Products Building.

Gary Repko, who was running the bar, said business has picked up each day of the fair. As of about noon Monday, he estimated the bar had sold 4,500 pounds of regular and Greek yogurt.

“I’ve been surprised, we’re selling more Greek,” he said, noting it’s about 60-40 on Greek to regular yogurt sales.

Fairgoers can buy either type of yogurt which is served in a parfait cup and then have it covered with a variety of toppings. The yogurt is about as fresh as it can get – it’s made at Cornell University in its own processing plant with milk from its own herd of dairy cattle.

Melissa Midgley and Teddy Boileau of The Dinosaur 95.3 and 103.9 radio in Syracuse and Otsego County Dairy Princess Sandy Mravlja work on their milkshake during the celebrity milkshake contest. Their special ingredient was coffee.
If that news gig doesn’t work out …

The team from NewsChannel 9 WSYR TV won the annual Celebrity Milkshake Making Contest on Dairy Day at the State Fair.

Teams from various television and radio stations (with help from county dairy princesses) had to concoct milkshakes using special ingredients they were given, such as Marshmallow Fluff, fiber cereal, coffee and peanut butter. Channel 9’s special ingredient was coconut pudding.

Yancey is Fancy

The annual Dairy Products competition is complete and the winners are on display in the Dairy Products Building.

The grand champion was gouda cheese made by Yancey’s Fancy, located in Corfu in Genesee County.

Gold and silver awards are given in many categories, such as dip, ricotta, cold-pak process cheese, fluid milk, sour cream, cottage cheese, flavored natural cheese, lowfat yogurt and cheeses from milk other than a cow. Then the gold winners are all judged to come up with a grand champion.

Rachel Rouland, of Clifton Springs, with Spice Girl before their appearance on the Bridge Street TV show on Dairy Day.
A large industry

Dairy is king as far as New York agriculture is concerned.

New York’s dairy industry generates more than $2.8 billion in farm sales, constituting nearly half of the state’s total agricultural receipts. The state is the third leading producer of milk in the nation, with 610,000 dairy cows producing more than 13.5 billion pounds of milk annually.

The state ranks first in the nation in the production of yogurt and cottage cheese. Wyoming County is the state’s top dairy county, followed by Cayuga County and St. Lawrence County.


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