Farmer Friday: UVM CREAM Program
Final exams began today at the University of Vermont and right now most college students are taking their tests, cramming or catching up on sleep from last night’s study session.
For 16 UVM students, they are also busy finishing their time managing the dairy barn at the Miller Farm Complex on the edge of campus. The CREAM Program (Cooperative for Real Education in Agricultural Management) is a student run program in the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences and gives students a unique, hands on experience they will never forget. They have a program advisor and a couple helping hands, but ultimately the students make the decisions that will determine the farm’s success in any given year.
Check out the UVM Cream Program video!
Each January, a group of 13-16 students, having gone through an extensive application process with the previous group of students, participate in the CREAM Program. The overwhelming majority of students have never milked a cow and some haven’t visited a farm prior to the experience. For two semesters the students work together to keep the farm running. They take on an incredible amount of responsibility, in addition to the rest of their class schedule.
- Milk and feed the cows – and make the schedule: The first shift needs to arrive at 3:30am for milking and the last group in the barn leaves at about 10pm.
- Manage the Breeding Program: They select the sires (fathers) for their next generation, determine when a cow is in heat and do the artificially insemination. They also get to name the calves!
- Hosting visitors: The Miller Farm Complex has between 12,000 and 15,000 visitors each year! The CREAM Program even participated in Cabot’s 2013 Open Farm Sunday.
- Projects & Research: CREAM students also work together on research projects focused on topics like the effects of different feed on milk composition, microbial research and preventing infections in cows. They are responsible for presenting their findings at an end of semester dinner.
Many of the students intend to go on to a veterinary career. The experience is priceless in preparing the students to work with cows, and it looks great on a resume. Regardless of the path CREAM students eventually take, they are sure to benefit from the dedication, teamwork and firsthand experience necessary to complete their time in the CREAM Program.
This year’s crop of CREAMers were part of the program at a particularly special time, as they witnessed the building of a new dairy barn and oversaw the transition of the herd to their new surroundings. The construction of the new barn, and inclusion of a milking parlor, makes the process more reflective of a modern dairy farm. They will be expanding their herd from 34 to 50 Holstein cows without adding much labor, and they will be able to expand their research programs. The new barn is also a model of cow comfort – great news for a herd of cows who are already incredibly pampered by their adoring collegiate farm managers.
This week we thank the UVM CREAM Program’s 2015 Outreach Coordinator, Miriam Lipschutz, for answering our Farmer Friday questions. Miriam is in her Junior Year at UVM in the Animal Science Department. She also had an internship with the Cabot Creamery Quality Assurance team last summer.
Did you have any farm experience before joining the CREAM Program?
I had very little experience having only volunteered on some educational farms. Most students in CREAM don’t have any farming experience, and can be from any major at UVM, not just agriculture.
What has been your favorite part of being in the CREAM Program?
After a day of exams and classes, there is nothing better than going to the barn and spending time with the cows. They are always my favorite part of the day, and it is such a privilege to care for them.
Which of the CREAM Program’s accomplishments are you most proud of?
This barn is run completely by students, which is pretty outstanding in itself. A group of 16 people come together to make decisions for the entire barn and have to communicate with each other about everything that is happening, from illnesses to breedings to finances. It is an incredible bond to run a dairy with 15 other students. Who else could understand why I would choose to wake up at 3 am to milk cows before classes?
What is the next big sustainability story for the UVM CREAM Program?
We are so excited to be in this new barn that runs so much more efficiently than our outdated old barn. We will soon be adding solar panels to the roof, and are going to get a small-scale digester for energy as well.
What is one thing you would like people who have never experienced farm life to know?
I would like them to know that although life on a farm is a lot of work, there isn’t anything more rewarding than helping a calf enter the world and taking care of our herd. We have so much love for our animals, and there is nothing else I would rather be doing than CREAM!