Maggie Lynch ‘13 milks a cow at the Fairchild Dairy.
The Dairy Farmers of America’s recent Gold Quality award for the two research and teaching dairies at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) reflects the students’ dedication to best practices for farm safety and sanitation. “Hitting top quality criteria for milk means we have low somatic cell count, bacteria count, and preincubation count,” says Jon Whitehouse, manager of the Fairchild Dairy Teaching and Research Center. “It indicates the cleanliness of our milking operation as well as the health of the cows.”
Both the Fairchild and Organic Dairies are New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station (NHAES) facilities within the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture (COLSA) at UNH. Students from across the University become involved with the dairies, the majority of whom are majoring in programs at COLSA and the Thompson School. “We have up to twenty different student milkers in a given year,” says Whitehouse. “Receiving the gold quality milk award shows that our students take their training and instruction seriously. They care about the excellent sanitation necessary to produce our clean, award-winning milk that commands a high premium on the market.”
The same is true of the Organic Dairy Research Farm, where students see the results of their work in the logbook that displays cell and bacteria counts each week. “It gives them an investment in the farm and an investment in the milk we’re producing,” says Emily Pavlidis, former Interim Manager of the dairy, who began including Organic Valley’s weekly analysis of the UNH Organic Dairy’s milk in the logbook to show students just how much their attention to detail matters when washing the cows, cleaning equipment with water at the proper temperature, and checking udder health. “When a student starts to strip out a cow, if they see little flakes that means the cow might be coming down with mastitis and that the milk can’t go in the tank or our counts will go up,” says Pavlidis. “We need to keep on top of a lot of things all the time.”
Newly hired manager of the Organic Dairy, Nicole Guindon ‘11 ‘13G, will continue with Pavlidis’ method to keep students motivated and invested. “It’s a great idea,” says Guindon. “The students do a lot of the milking here, and are helping the University to set the bar for some of the highest quality milk in the region.”
- Victoria Forester Courtland