New York State Fair celebrates 10 years of welcoming in 'udder miracles'
The New York State Fair celebrated 10 years of welcoming in "udder miracles" at the dairy cow birthing center. The experience aims to educate and immerse the general public in the life (and smells) of the New York dairy industry.
Six pregnant Holstein dairy cows from Patterson Farms in Auburn graze on hay in the pens as a fan blows cool air onto them and a watchful crowd waits to witness the miracle of life. Cortland Dairy Farmer Paul Fouts said it's a chance for people to ask questions.
"Most people are several generations away from any family members owning a farm or working on a farm," Fouts said." So they really don't know what goes on in taking care of the cows and in production of milk and dairy products."
Three cows were showing signs of labor, their stomachs shaking through contractions. Tad Patterson, a seventh-generation dairy farmer and assistant herd manager for Patterson Farms, said the cows are all experienced mothers but being in front of a crowd can make them a little nervous.
"They get a little camera shy, so it might take them a little bit longer than normal," Patterson said. "But when that baby wants to come out, they'll make sure it happens."
Dairy cows only produce milk from having a calf. After giving birth, the farmers will have the cows go through 2-3 heat cycles before artificially inseminating them again. The cow will be milked until the seventh month of its pregnancy when it gets a two-month break leading up to its due date. Then the cycle repeats — with each cow having about one calf a year.
Mama cow 10146's water broke and about two hours later she laid down and began to push. At 2:40 p.m., Reilley, a Black 87-pound dairy-beef Heifer calf, is welcomed into the world.
The mother licks off her calf and shortly after Reilley is removed from the pen — which Patterson said is for the safety of the calf so she isn't stepped on by other cows and is protected from any diseases her mother carries.
"There are certain types of bacteria that can be shed through the mother's manure," Patterson said. "[The mother's] immune system is significantly higher and more capable of fighting off bacteria than a brand newborn baby."
Cows don't bond generationally either, instead bonding with cows around their own age — kind of like classmates in school.
Reilley is named after Reilley Patterson, Tad's sister, who had the honor of bottle-feeding the calf its first milk — the colostrum from its mother. She said it felt absolutely amazing to have the first calf of the day named after her.
"Very grateful for it because this is something so meaningful to me to be here," Reilley Patterson said.
This was the first cow birth for Mother and daughter, Erin and Claire Malay, of Dewitt, New York. Claire's take on it?
"Kind of gross," Claire Malay said. "It makes me feel guilty."
"[It] makes you want to do your homework to know that animals are being treated well and coming from farms that care for their animals," Erin Malay said.
Thursday evening, the Patterson Farms cows were sent home as the next group of pregnant cows was brought in. As for what will happen to Reilley the calf next? Tad Patterson said because she's a crossbreed, she'll be sold to a beef farm where she'll live until she's old enough to be processed — since at the end of the day dairy farming is all economics.
"We could raise all these black cows ourselves and we could have a business doing that," Tad Patterson said. "But that would be take away investing into our main profit source, which is the dairy cows and producing milk for consumers. And we just don't really have the land base really to even feed any more cows."