Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Some universities selling dairy herds to cut costs

University agriculture programs across the company are selling parts or all of their dairy herds to cut costs as operating budgets continue to shrink and the price of maintaining the herds rises. Tom Vogelmann, dean of the University of Vermont's College of Agriculture and Life Science, said it plans to sell its 255 Holsteins and have faculty do their work on private farms that could be paid $20,000 a year for three years, Lisa Rathke of The Associated Press reports. "The farmers would benefit from the added income, while researchers would have access to more cows, possibly in more modern facilities," Rathke writes. (Burlington Free Press photo by Glenn Russell)

"We're really excited because we feel that this is really a new model that land-grant institutions can work toward," Vogelmann told Rathke. The University of Kentucky, also a land-grant school, plans to auction part of its herd to reduce the number of cows from 140 to around 100 by September, Rathke reports. Other schools are looking into combining herds with other nearby universities. Rutgers University in New Jersey combined its herd with one at the University of Delaware eight years ago. Kentucky planned to move its herd to a facility at Eastern Kentucky University, about 30 minutes away, but funding ran out. The University of Minnesota and Michigan State University each plan to sell one of their three herds.

Jim Linn, vice president of the American Dairy Science Association, said "a minority of schools are discontinuing their herds but all institutions are looking at the costs of keeping their animals," Rathke writes. Vermont plans to keep 65 cows at its farm for research and its hands-on Cooperative for Real Education in Agricultural Management program, but administrators say the new system will actually increase the number of cows to which the faculty has access. "Before we were sort of limited to 255 animals for research trials," Vogelmann told Rathke. "But if you look at an hour's driving radius around here, that number is multiplied ten-fold." (Read more)

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