K-State dairy unit provides fresh milk products, hands-on experience

Eulises Corrales, agricultural technician, and Jocelyn Flowers, senior in animal sciences and industry, milk K-State dairy cows on Jan. 29. (Regan Tokos | The Royal Purple)

If you have eaten ice cream from the Call Hall Dairy Bar, then you have had ice cream produced and processed at Kansas State from the Dairy Teaching and Research Center. Since the 1970s, the center has housed dairy cattle for student research and milk production at K-State.

The different systems at the facility include tours and farm visits, the milking process and student research over topics including dairy nutrition, housing and management.

In addition to student research, there are workers and industry professionals who have a passion for the cattle industry and work to ensure the operation is run efficiently.

“Every day, each cow will produce about 105.6 pounds of milk, on average,” said Mike Scheffel, manager of the dairy cattle research center. “This makes our facility, now over 40 years old, great for production and being able to sell our milk, too.”

Scheffel said the hands-on experience that students receive in addition to their research are important to their success.

“All of this milk production operates for about 21 hours in a day and we have really great people, both students and employees, working out here at the farm,” Scheffel said. “When it comes down to it, it’s all about the health and well-being of each cow that we make our No. 1 priority.”

Scheffel said the facility houses approximately 260 milk cows and about 330 replacement calves, which will grow to replace older cows when they are finished with milking. The bull calves that are born are either sold or used for student research projects.

Hands-on experience, research

Approximately 20-30 undergraduate and graduate students work at the dairy unit for either research or part-time jobs.

Lauren Peterson, junior in agricultural communications and journalism, is a student worker at the dairy cattle unit and previously did not have a diverse livestock background, having only worked with horses. She said working at the dairy facility has given her the opportunity to see a different side of the agriculture industry.

“If I’m stressed about something or have a ton of projects due all at once, I can go to work and take my mind off of life for awhile,” Peterson said.

Kendra Pryor, junior in animal sciences and industry, also works at the dairy unit.

“The greatest part about working at the dairy unit is that I am able to apply what I have learned in the classroom to the hands-on experience that I have gained while working at the dairy,” Pryor said. “I work there for part of my undergraduate research, but I grew up raising cattle, so anytime I get to be around (the cows) is always great, too.”

Pryor said this research is important because it is not only for her own benefit, but also for the university and dairy industry.

“If you were to come out here with any of our workers to one of the pens, the cows will come up to you and demand attention from you,” Scheffel said. “We have a very calm herd and operation with very docile cows, which makes our operation here at K-State such a blessing to us.”

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series showcasing K-State livestock units. Next week’s story will feature the sheep and meat goat unit.