MSU Dairy welcomes students to pet calves and cows and relieve stress

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Close up of a cow

Mya Gregory

Close up of a cow at the MSU Dairy Center

On March 24, the MSU Dairy Cattle Teaching and Research Center opened their doors to students and the public could relieve stress by interacting with calves and cows.

Calves at the MSU Dairy Cattle Training and Research Center. Photo by Mya Gregory.

The center, 4075 N College Rd, consists of multiple barns built for animals of different ages and types. According to Farm ManagerJim Good, the center serves three main functions: teaching, outreach and research. 

In terms of the teaching role, the center hosts multiple students and classes on site. 

“They’ll spend part of their time in the classroom and then the other part here,” said Good. “They’ll be able to apply what they have learned hands-on, whether that be giving the cows a physical, checking for illnesses, management, looking at facilities, etc.” 

The outreach aspect of the center focuses on providing education to the community and sharing what it is that the center does. This role of the center was seen in the event held on March 24.

The last aspect, research, is a very large part of what the center does. The center provides research to the world, disseminating their knowledge through things like podcasts and meetings. 

“We milk about 230 cows,” said Good, “and at any one time, about half of those cows are on a research project.” 

Some of the research done at the center focuses on how to make cows more efficient in terms of production, and studies that focus on nutrition, animal welfare, and reproduction. 

“One trial we’re doing right now is all on byproduct feeds,” said Good. “Byproducts  that normally would go to a landfill, such as beet pulp, we’re taking and feeding it to the cows. We found that if we balance the diet accordingly with the help of a nutritionist, we can have a cow that’s just as productive using some of these feeds that would be considered nonedible for humans.”

Cows eating at the center. Photo by Mya Gregory. 

Director of South Campus Animal Farms Faith Cullens-Nobis saw how this event benefited not only the community, but also the center. 

The center held two events the week following the Feb. 13 shooting at MSU, where students could come and pet the calves. Following those events, Cullens-Nobis was contacted by many people asking if they were doing more events like this, because they had missed it or wanted to come back. 

The center decided to hold three more events similar to the past ones, one on March 24, and the other two to be held on April 21 and May 19, from 1-3 p.m. 

The event held on March 24 was a great success.

“We were expecting like a hundred people, like we had last month,” said Cullens-Nobis. “But we had over six hundred, so we were a bit overwhelmed, and there was a long line, but everybody was so patient and kind and understanding.” 

People gathered around the pens in order to pet cows to brighten their days. 

Photo by Mya Gregory. 

The setup of the event had people coming into a barn, putting on boots and gloves, and then were able to pet five calves. The center also had three big cows inside that people could “brush, hug, and love.” The center also had other cows outside, where people could just walk around looking at the facility and asking staff members questions. 

The benefits that Cullens-Nobis saw, in terms of community members and students, was just “letting people interact with animals as a de-stressing mechanism, coming together and having something fun and free to do.” 

With hundreds of people at the center, smiles were present as people were able to interact with animals. 

Close-up image of a cow at the center. Photo by Mya Gregory.

“This has been very stress-relieving,” said Maddy Hester, junior at MSU,. “It’s great to just get outside in the sunshine and interact with the cows. Really takes my mind off of  things.” 

Community member interacting with one of the cows at the center. Photo by Mya Gregory.

In terms of the benefits for the center, the event just allowed people to know that they are there and present. 

“We’re always open during daylight hours,” said Cullens-Nobis, “we welcome visitors, so people are always welcome to come out and interact with the animals. For us, it was just a really good activity to let people know that they are welcome to come to our farms.” 

Moving forward, the center is hoping to place the calves outside so more people can interact with them at these events. The center also hopes to bring in other animals, including chicks and lambs. 

The center is also planning the opening of a new dairy, which will hopefully be up and running in 2026. The dairy will be located right across from the current center and “will be all state of the art, more cows, and a great tourist attraction for the community with lots of hands-on learning opportunities,” Good said. 

More information about the MSU Dairy Cattle Teaching and Research Center is provided by Jim Good below.

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