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‘From crops to cows to cream’: Milking center dedication highlights N.C. State’s innovative approach to dairy science and education

A new N.C. State University milking center was cause for celebration for North Carolina’s dairy industry Friday Nov. 9. More than 100 people came out to view the new building designed to enhance the university’s teaching, research and extension programs in both food and animal sciences.

The center includes milking stalls where about 150 cows are milked twice a day, producing 1,000 gallons a day of milk that’s trucked to Schaub Hall and used in Howling Cow ice cream and other dairy products.

The center’s dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Lake Wheeler Road Field Laboratory’s Dairy Educational Unit mark an important milestone in the development of a vertically integrated dairy enterprise system that encompasses not just the dairy farm unit but also the Schaub Hall Dairy Pilot Plant.

The milking center modernization is among the first steps in expanding that system. Planning and fund raising are under way for a dairy museum at the farm, as well as a retail creamery and ice cream parlor to be added to Schaub Hall.

CALS Dean Richard Linton described the system as “a living laboratory where we can take students through the entire integration from the farm, through processing, through manufacturing, to the development of wonderful products.

“We can now do things fully from the farm all the way to the fork,” Linton added. “It also provides us a great opportunity to lead in the southeast region … in dairy science and education and to build our capacities for the dairy industry here in the state.”

Indeed, as dairy producer and CALS graduate Norman Jordan noted, other land-grant universities have diminished or gotten rid of their dairy herds at a time when N.C. State “has gone in the opposite direction. This is bringing national attention to N.C. State and to our state’s dairy industry.”

While Animal Science Department Head Todd See was unable to attend the dedication, he sent to Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences Head Christopher Daubert a letter outlining his thoughts on the milking center’s significance.

“We now have the most modern and comprehensive resources for teaching, research and outreach on all aspects of dairy, from genetics programs to value-added marketing of milk products, touching every step from the crops to the cow to the cream,” Daubert quoted See as saying.

“This milking parlor will allow our researchers to better evaluate nutritional, reproductive, genetic, and management programs and their impact on the quality, quantity and safety of milk produced. More importantly, the 800 students studying animal science will be exposed to state-of-the-art facilities to learn the scientific foundation of the dairy industry at one of the best teaching farms in the world.”

The industry’s support of the milking center and the dairy enterprise system was evident in the number of people present for the dedication and in the page-long list of donors to the N.C. Dairy Foundation Campaign for Excellence. The campaign chairman, Charles “Buddy” Gaither, noted that the foundation has raised $1 million toward its goal of $2.5 million.

Students have shown especially strong support. The Food Science Club has donated $35,000, while the Animal Science Club chipped in $25,000, Daubert said.

Richard Linton, Tom Kenan, Gary Cartwright
CALS Dean Richard Linton, Tom Kenan and Dairy Enterprise System Director Gary Cartwright were among those who cut the ribbon at the milking center dedication. Tom Kenan represented the Randleigh Foundation and William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust, which have provided substantial support for the dairy enterprise system. In the 1960s, the late William Kenan donated the Randleigh Farm to the university. That farm was sold, with a significant part of the proceeds set aside for improvements at the Dairy Research and Teaching Farm.

In addition to Daubert, Gaither, Jordan and Linton, other speakers at the dedication were Dr. Richard Reich, assistant commissioner of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and Jim Howie, member services manager for Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers. Gary Cartwright is director of the Dairy Enterprise System.

Howie noted that after decades of decline, 2011 saw increased dairy production in North Carolina, and new dairies are opening. Not only that, enthusiasm is replacing pessimism among the state’s dairy farmers, and the developments at N.C. State are among the reasons why, Jordan said.

“As president of the North Carolina Dairy Producers, I am beginning to see the attitude (among producers) change. We are beginning to see a lot more of a can-do attitude,” he said. “I think having a dairy operation like this at our land-grant university just adds to that excitement and the potential for enthusiasm and growth that we hope to see – and feel that we will see – in the state of North Carolina.”

–Dee Shore

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