Vet students will get hands on udders

The students will train and live for two weeks at a time at a special farm near New Sweden, Minn.

Alex Robinson

Veterinary students will be dropping their pencils next year and grabbing some udders.

The College of Veterinary Medicine is partnering with Davis Family Dairy to create a new farm where students will train and live for two weeks at a time.

The farm will have 3,000 milking cows and a calving station, where 6,000 cows are expected to be born each year.

The $15 million facility will be built near New Sweden, Minn.

Davis Family Dairy will own the farm and the animals, and work with farmer Dave Mogensen who will handle the crop harvest. The University will contribute the teaching facilities and housing for students.

CEO of Davis Family Dairy and University alumnus Mitch Davis said the partnership will work because it allows each party to do what it does best.

“(The University) can be a lot more efficient with their money,” Davis said. “The commercial side of it will take care of itself and allow the University to operate the teaching portion.”

Dairy medicine professor John Fetrow is helping oversee the new facility and said it will give students exposure they couldn’t get in the classroom.

Because the facility will have so many cows, Fetrow said some are bound to get sick and give students a chance to diagnose and treat them.

“We need some way to teach that,” he said. “This will be real world and very hands on.”

Students will also get a chance to participate in the day- to-day farm operations. They will learn the basics of dairy farming such as milking, ear tagging, organizing vaccination programs and feeding, Fetrow said.

Trevor Ames, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, said he expects more than 20 students to go through a two- week rotation at the facility each year.

He said if all goes as planned, the facility will be completed next summer and students will be able to start training in the fall.

Veterinary medicine senior David Harder went through a rotation on a University-affiliated farm near Baldwin, Wis., which is similar to the new facility.

Harder grew up on a farm in southeastern Minnesota and said he knew what to expect: days starting at 6 a.m. and a lot of hands-on work.

“It’s an excellent supplement to the classroom,”

Harder said. “You see it over and over in the classroom, but a lot of students learn by doing.”

The facility will also train students from other colleges, because not many colleges have the benefits of such a large dairy facility, Ames said.

“One of the goals of this facility is to have the capability to teach students from across the nation about dairying,” he said.

Fetrow said in the future he would like to attain funding for a national training center for veterinary students at the site.

“No other vet school has anything like this and it has the potential to have a major role in training dairy veterinarians across the nation,” Fetrow said.

By moving the University affiliation to Minnesota, the site is more likely to receive grant money necessary for future additions, Ames said.