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Last fall I had the fantastic opportunity to be an intern for the Texas State Fair in Dallas. It was only a four day internship working with Big Tex’s Barnyard where fairgoers can learn about the show animals and agriculture in general. On our first day I was was re-assigned to work with the Southwest Dairy Farmers representative. All of my previous cattle experience was with beef cows and so I was extremely thrilled to learn to work with the dairy cows. Since there were several milking demonstrations a day, there were three dairy cows that we rotated for the demonstrations. One old Holstein Cow, a Brown Swiss, and a Jersey Cow. The demonstration stall had machine milker that I became a pro at. The audience could see how the milkers worked and how much milk a cow could give. We had our routine: as the audience started to arrive, the cow was taken from her stall into the demonstration stall. As the Southwest Dairy Farmer began his presnetation, the cow was given a scoop of feed and once the rep started to explain the process, I dipped the cows teats in iodine dip, wiped clean, and the milking suction device was placed on the four teats. It was always pointed out that if the suction hurt the cow, she would stop eating, kick off the machine and probably kick me in the process. That didn’t happen so it was evident she was comfortable, especially since the pressure of the milk was being relieved. After she gave us a certain amount of milk (we pre-determined the amount in order to allow her to give milk each time) the machine would be taken off and she would be cleaned again. Once the presentation was over, we put her back in her stall where she would lie down comfortably and chew her cud. (Cattle are ruminant animals meaning that they have a four compartment stomach so in between switching compartments, their “cud”, or already chewed food is regergetated, and chewed on some more in order to continue the digestion process, usually this is a sign of relaxation) We usually only used two cows a day and rotated them, that way a cow got a day off but still had to get milked. It was interesting talking to some of the fair goers and one of the most popular questions/subjects was drinking raw milk. We couldn’t give any raw milk because of liablility reasons but a lot of people were very interested in it. At the end of the day we took all three cows to the milking room of the fair and milked the cows out, in order to relieve the pressure, and placed them in their little paddock. I was so amazed by the machinery and the milking process. The suction on the milking part didn’t need any sort of attachment to keep it attached. the suction enough kept it on while still keeping comfort for the cow. The iodine dip keeps the milk and machine as clean as possible and the milk never is never touched by the human. Since we weren’t keeping the milk, we simply discarded it but the cleaning process of the machine is extremely important as well. The whole process just blew my mind. Of course I have to report on the three cows themselves, the old Holstein was known as pokey because she had no hurry to get anywhere. She took her time and loved attention. The Brown Swiss cow was the exact opposite, she was in a hurry and if you were in her way, she ran you over but she was still sweet and did what you wanted her to without any hesitation. My favorite, the Jersey Cow, was the cutest little cow and loved to play. She would playfully nudge you when you went to put her halter on and was just a sweet heart. Just a little tip, don’t lead dairy cows like you lead show cattle, they don’t like being on a short lead, they like a little slack (no pun intended).

Even though I mainly worked with the dairy cows, they were put up before the barn yard closed so I worked a little at the barn yard. Another tip: If you are going to a fair and not showing an animal, please do NOT pet the animals or ask to pet the animals if you are not in a petting zoo. Even though most of these animals are friendly for liability purposes they can not let you pet them… but there are unfriendly animals that will bite you. We had a longhorn steer on display and dispite the “Do Not Pet Me” signs every six inches, it seemed like one in every three people tried to grab his horn. He was not a mean steer but it would be so easy for the steer to simply move his head and break someones hand in between his horn and the gate. The sad part was that most of the people trying to grab his horns were over the age of 25, english speaking, and litterate so there was no excuse… Other than that it was a blast talking to some of these people and engaging them on animal industry discussions.

If you ever get a chance to work with the state fair or even just go visit it, go for it, you just may learn a thing or two without even realizing it.   

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