Calving is a normal part of life on a dairy farm — in fact, DFA family dairy farmer Bruce Gibson, owner of Locust Hill Dairy in Mannsville, N.Y., says roughly 10 calves are born each day on his farm. For most people, though, witnessing the miracle of new life is not a daily occurrence. That’s why dairy farmers like Bruce volunteer each year to supervise some of their expectant ladies’ births at the New York State Fair’s UdderMiracle Calf Birthing Barn.
Bruce has volunteered at the New York State Fair’s birthing barn since 2015, and this year, he and the other volunteers welcomed 35 calves with more than 250 spectators watching. He says the birthing barn is an important opportunity to educate people about animal agriculture and animal well-being, and that watching a live birth is an educational experience for people of all ages.
“We can see how impactful the birthing center is for the general public,” Bruce says. “It’s our responsibility as farmers to do as much as we can to bring dairy’s positive message to light. By bringing our cows to the fair, we have the opportunity to tell our own story.”
Bruce says his favorite memory from the event was helping deliver the very first calf born on the first day of the event.
“It’s a little nerve-wracking when one of your cows is delivering a calf in front of 250 people in the tent and hundreds more online who are watching,” Bruce says. “Even though I help deliver more than 1,000 calves a year, when it happens in front of an audience, it brings the excitement back all over again. I was thinking, ‘Oh wow, my cow is having a calf!’”
Spectators also had the chance to chat with Bruce and ask questions about dairy farming and cow care. Most commonly, Bruce says he’s asked about cow-calf separation and how long calves spend with their mothers before they part ways. He says it’s generally about two hours, depending on how maternal the mother is — otherwise, the calves are at high risk of being stepped on and injured.
Bruce says he’s proud to represent DFA and dairy farmers at the New York State Fair each year, and he’s grateful for the opportunity to be an educator to the general public at the event.