We have received lots of different stories from visitors of the Dairy Cow Birthing Center and thought I’d share this one from Dee Dolph, an intern with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cayuga County. All Dee wanted to see this summer while working with farms was a calf being born, and she finally was able to witness it at the New York State Fair. Here is her story and what she experienced.

Dairy Birthing Center Provided Me an Experience I will Never Forget

On Monday August 25th, I headed to the Great New York State Fair for Dairy Day with my Cornell Cooperative Extension coworkers. I was asked first thing in the morning what I wanted to see most and I practically shouted “The Dairy Birthing Center!” After completing a 6 week internship with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cayuga County, and continuing on to do part time work there, I had learned a lot about the dairy industry and started to love learning everything I could about it. At the very top of my to-do list for learning more was to see a calf born. So of course the Dairy Birthing Center was definitely something I wanted to see when I was at the fair.
We got to walk through the Birthing Center after touring other hot spots at the fair. The first time we walked through, the many volunteers were telling everyone that one cow was getting pretty close to being in labor. Since she wasn’t ready, we left and had some lunch across the street from the birthing center. Soon, I started to notice that a lot of people were heading inside the tent and I knew something was going on. I said farewell to my coworkers and decided to stay in the Birthing Center tent so that I could witness what I had been looking forward to all day.

As I stepped in I immediately noticed how many people were in the tent wanting to witness the same thing that I did. I had to climb up almost all the way on the top of the bleachers in order to find a seat. The cow that was now fully in labor, Cow #6229 was being held in a squeeze chute so that the vets could get a good look at her. From the very beginning, I could tell that a lot of the people that were present were not well educated in the dairy industry. Many were asking questions like “why do the cows not have names?” or “Why do the babies get taken away from their mommys?” These were the questions that made me realize that there were many people that didn’t know much about this industry. I was very impressed with how well all of the volunteers in the Birthing Center handled all of the questions. Many of the questions were asked multiple times and each volunteer would answer patiently and did not get upset about being asked the same question.

While the questions were being asked and answered, vets continued to check out the cow. You could tell almost immediately that something was wrong because multiple vets had been checking her out over and over. The owner of the dairy farm that this particular cow came from, Steve Pallodino, was standing right along with the vets and listening intently to them. He was helping in any way he could and examining her himself as well.

Once the vets realized that something was wrong Steve Palladino addressed the crowd to let them know that this was not going to be a normal birth and they could not figure out exactly what was going wrong. Steve was very good about explaining everything so that everyone in the crowd could understand exactly what was going on. Eventually he came over the mic again and explained that they would have to perform a C-section on the cow in order to get the baby out. He stated that he and the other veterinarians there were pretty sure that the calf was deformed and it would probably be a still birth. I thought he did a great job of explaining to everyone that this may not be something that everyone would want to see so if they felt they couldn’t watch it, it would be okay if they left. Some people left after he said this but most stayed to watch.

The whole time Steve was talking, I could hear in his voice how upset he was that this was happening to his cow. The emotion that he portrayed I think made people realize that dairy farmers truly care about their cows, and don’t think that they are just part of a factory. He truly was worried about the fate of his cow. Even from the very beginning, he had been right by #6229’s side helping to check her over and assisting the vets. Throughout the whole C-section, Steve stood behind the cow, putting pressure on her rump “to give her something else to think about”. Some might think that this pressure would not help the cow; this was not accurate because once he started standing there, petting her and pushing a little bit on her, she immediately started to stand still. Another reason for him to stand there was so he could explain everything that the vets were doing to the crowd since the surgery was performed on the side of the cow that we could not see. I thought that this was also very beneficial because everyone in the crowd learned the steps taken to do a C-section on such an animal; everything from giving her a shot to calm her down, to which muscle they were cutting, to them stitching her up in the end. During this time, the volunteers had asked people to be as quiet as possible so that we did not stress the cow out more than she already was. It was almost silent inside the tent, there were hundreds of people watching on and you could’ve heard a pin drop. This was amazing to me seeing how there were hundreds of people, and even lots of kids present. Everyone was mesmerized.

Overall I was truly impressed with how well the whole situation went. I thought that many people came away with a better understanding of the dairy farm industry. There was going to be no hiding of what they would do if they were on a farm in this situation, which is why they performed the C-section in front of hundreds of people. Even to the point where they pulled a stillborn calf out, everything was explained to prove that they were hiding nothing. They calmly explained that the calf was deformed and then explained that the calf’s legs were straight like the legs of a stool. It gave city folks the opportunity to take a peek inside how a dairy farm works, without getting anything sugar coated. I thought that all of the volunteers did an amazing job with the whole situation, from checking on the other expecting heifers to answering hundreds of questions. Although I didn’t get the exact outcome that I wanted when entering the Diary Birthing Center, I did get to experience something of a lifetime that not many other people will.

DeeDolphDeann (Dee) Dolph is a recent graduate from SUNY Cortland who is currently working on special projects at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cayuga County. She graduated in August 2014 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business and Economics with a Concentration in Environmental Management. Dee plans to continue working in the environmental field once her time at Cornell Cooperative Extension is over.