Fair's Dairy Birthing Center offers unique learning experience

The newly-installed Dairy Birthing Center at the New York State Fair saw a crowd of over 5,000 people on its busiest day.

The chance to see a cow give birth drew thousands of spectators to the New York State Fair Dairy Birthing Center this past week. Organizers estimate that some of the fair’s busiest days saw over 5,000 people lining fences and sitting on metal bleachers with the hopes of seeing a calf delivered. 

Photo: Dougtone/Flickr

Every day, three to four cows – only hours away from giving birth – were brought into the fair from local farms, according to herd manager and host of the birthing center Jason Fetzer.

Farmers can identify that a cow soon will deliver a calf when she displays restlessness, discharges birth canal fluid or shows signs of swelling, Fetzer said.  The cows could then take an hour or more to give birth after these signs are observed.

“It gives me an opportunity to answer questions that people have had their whole life, from people who have never seen cows, or seen a cow give birth,” Fetzer said.

The large crowd that was drawn in to witness these births also presented a unique chance for dairy farmers like Fetzer to set the record straight on their practices.

Fetzer said the misconceptions that dairy farmers abuse livestock and disregard their wellbeing are not true, and hopes that educating the public on the lives of these cows will show the care they have for the animals.

“Those cows are my life. I am going to do the best I can for those cows everyday, day in and day out,” Fetzer said.

The New York Animal Agriculture Coalition, a farmer’s organization dedicated to educating the public on farming practices, recognized the need to further engage citizens on the state’s agricultural sector, according to organizers. They teamed up with sponsoring agriculture agencies, local dairy farms and the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine to put on this event.

The birthing center was new to the state fair this year and presented a rare opportunity for the public to meet the farmers behind their dairy products, and educate these people on agricultural issues.

Roger Parsons, a fairgoer who planned to dedicate an hour of his time at the fair to waiting in the birthing center, said he was drawn to the tent from an interest in seeing Mother Nature at work.

Parsons has never been a farmer and simply hoped to scratch witnessing an animal being born off his bucket list.

“It is the same reason you would go look at the Grand Canyon if you had never seen it before, just to see nature,” Parsons said.

One mother brought her 2-year-old daughter to the birthing center after she expressed interest in cows.

Jodie Bush said it was a great opportunity to educate her daughter further on the importance of the animals. “I think it is a great experience for her to know that babies come from something other than humans,” Bush said.

Joan Petzer, one of the hosts at the birthing center, said most people that entered their tent showed genuine curiosity about New York state agriculture, often checking back in throughout the week to ask questions and possibly see a birth.

“This gives consumers one more chance to get closer to where their food comes from and a chance to talk to their dairy producers,” Petzer said.

One delivery occurred at 10 a.m. Sunday morning before the center opened. About 100 people were on-hand to witness a calf emerge out of its mother’s womb.

The mother and calf were immediately separated to protect the calf’s undeveloped immune system from disease. The calf was held in a hutch at the front of the center and transported back to its farm the following day. Veterinarians were on hand to ensure that the birth ran smoothly.

Fetzer said the addition of the birthing center to the fair has been something truly special. He has worked with cows for over 18 years and said he had recognized the need for an event like this at the New York State Fair.

Fetzer added that he hopes to continue the dairy birthing center at next year’s fair, even offering to bring all 36 of his cows if necessary.

While the operation has room to grow, Fetzer said he believes the first dairy cow birthing center has been a huge success.

Post new comment

* Field must be completed for your comment to appear on The NewsHouse
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.