Cornell’s Dairy Barn Offers A Look At The Modern Dairy Farm

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ITHACA, NY (WSKG) – Dairy is big business in New York, but the dairy industry is changing and so is the look of dairy farms.

Inside the Cornell Teaching Dairy Barn its breezy and comfortable. The barn is part of the Veterinary School.

Veterinarian and farm manager Blake Nguyen described the place like it’s a bovine spa.

Celia Clarke/WSKG Public Media

Dr. Blake Nguyen, Veterinarian and Manager of the Cornell Teaching Dairy Barn. (Celia Clarke/WSKG Public Media)

“In here we have shade,” he said. “We have sprinklers. Fans, to keep the cows cool.”

They have constant access to nutritionally-balanced food and back scratchers. They look like the big spinning brushes in a car wash. 

Nguyen said they have fewer than 200 cows. That’s the average size of a New York dairy farm. Everything at the Cornell barn is about making farming more efficient and profitable.

“In pretty much all our life stages [of the animals],” he said, “our goal is to manage health and productivity, and those two things go hand in hand. The healthiest animals are also the most productive.”

These cows don’t go out on pastures. That is more common these days, unless a farm is certified organic, which requires cows be on pasture a certain number of hours a day. 

Matt Haan is with Penn State cooperative extension and works with organic dairy farmers. He said cows on pasture are not necessarily healthier. 

“I don’t think there’s a big contrast,” Haan said, “between the cow health in a pasture versus a confinement situation. I think a lot has to do with the management of that individual farm and that individual farmer.”

The importance of knowledgeable farmers, veterinarians and farmworkers is a priority at the Cornell Teaching Barn.

Full disclosure: Cornell University is a WSKG sponsor.