Country World Archives 2001-2008

TAMU-C dairy plans to keep on milking; A&M Dairy Center at College Station closing


By LORI COPE | East Texas Edition

TAMU-C Dairy Manager Benny Hoover checks milk lines prior to milking the cows on Thursday, Feb. 20. Seven student workers are employed at the TAMU-C farm, and they rotate the milking schedule with other farm-related chores.
-- TAMU-C courtesy photo, Dave Walvoord

February 27, 2003 -- Although the Texas A&M University Dairy Center in College Station will end production in August, the Texas A&M University-Commerce (TAMU-C) dairy farm has plans to keep on milking.

"Things are going well here," said Scott Stewart, TAMU-C farm manager a day after the announcement came from College Station. "I had heard about a year or so ago they might be closing."

On Feb. 19, Texas A&M University in College Station announced they were ceasing milking operations. "Maintenance costs are high, and attempts to modernize to apply advancements in production technology have proven not to be cost-effective," said Dr. John McNeill, head of A&M's department of animal science, College Station. Of the 1,001 students enrolled in the animal science department there, 16 are majoring in dairy science. Undergraduate and graduate degrees in dairy science are still being offered.

At the Commerce campus, Stewart said seven student workers are employed on the university's farm, and they rotate on the twice-a-day milking schedule. About 50 cows are in the milking herd, made up mostly of Holsteins. The cows generate a 45-pound average, at last test, "but we have several fresh cows coming in so that number will be going up," said Stewart.

All the dairy cows are bred by artificial insemination. Heifers are kept for future production, and bull calves are sold. The milk is sold to the Dairy Farmers of America cooperative.

Besides breeding and calving chores, students are also involved in other aspects of dairying, including grass hay production on part of the dairy's 200 acres.

The TAMU-C ag students gain valuable hands-on experience at the dairy, according to Stewart. They learn "proper milking techniques, such as pre- and post-dipping and learn how to spot mastitis." But few go on to own, or even work at, a dairy farm. "There are few students with actual dairy experience" that come into the program, Stewart added, "and few go on to work on a dairy." But the knowledge and experience gained through the program are beneficial in many aspects of ag-related production farms and agri-businesses.

At A&M in College Station, McNeill said students are important, and the department will "seek opportunities for structured student internships with modern commercial dairies and possibly bring in animals for labs."

The College Station Dairy Center's milking facility was built in 1952 and received upgrades in 1980 and 1987. Currently, the dairy has 115 milk cows.

McNeill said depressed milk prices and increased operational costs forced the center to exceed its budget during the university's last fiscal year by several thousand dollars.

Currently, the TAMU-C dairy "covers its expenses, except labor," Stewart said.

Dairy farmers statewide are currently facing record-low milk prices and high fuel costs.