UF/IFAS Family Day at the Dairy Farm returns March 16, public invited

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Last year’s open house at the University of Florida dairy farm was so successful that organizers were “moo-tivated” to repeat the event, which returns to Alachua County on Saturday, March 16.

Free and open to the public, Family Day at the Dairy Farm takes place 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Hague, 20 minutes northwest of Gainesville just off U.S. Highway 441. For directions, see http://tinyurl.com/d3a5626.

Visitors can watch cows being milked, pet calves, walk through free-stall barns, make butter, see farming equipment and learn how UF research helps keep dairy cows happy, healthy and productive. There will even be free samples of dairy products, a giant cow statue to admire, and a hayride to transport visitors to and from the parking area.

Local actor Houston Wells will reprise his role as President Abraham Lincoln, greeting visitors and posing for photos. It will be one of his final appearances commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act, a bill Lincoln signed in 1862 to establish the land-grant university system. UF is the state’s flagship land-grant university.

Organizers hope to exceed last year’s attendance, which was about 800 people, said dairy Extension specialist Albert De Vries, an associate professor with UF’s animal sciences department.

“The feedback we received last year was extremely positive, and we’re thrilled that so many parents and children enjoyed their visit to our farm,” De Vries said. “We do have some additions and improvements in the works, so for people who attended last year, we expect they will have an even better time if they come out.”

Covering 850 acres and housing about 500 Holstein cows, the farm is used for research in every phase of dairy production. Faculty and students involved in animal sciences and veterinary medicine conduct studies designed to improve nutrition, cow comfort, health care, and other factors impacting commercial dairy production. Research findings from the farm are communicated to industry by UF/IFAS Extension personnel.

Unlike many UF/IFAS research facilities, the dairy farm is operational 365 days a year. A dedicated staff of 15 works and sometimes lives on-site, caring for the herd and assisting researchers.

“Rain or shine, the cows need to be fed, the barns need to be cleaned, and so on,” De Vries said. “Our staff members have the same responsibilities that commercial dairy farmers do, and that means our visitors will get a very good idea how the state’s dairy farms operate.”

For those who plan to attend, De Vries suggests wearing closed-toed shoes and bringing sunblock and hats; bottled water will be provided free of charge. Please leave pets at home.

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Contacts

Writer: Tom Nordlie, 352-273-3567, tnordlie@ufl.edu

Source: Albert De Vries, 352-392-5594, ext. 227, devries@ufl.edu

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In this file photo, children enjoy petting a calf at the University of Florida’s first Family Day at the Dairy Farm event in March 2012. The open house drew 850 visitors so organizers are presenting a follow-up on March 16, 2013. Free and open to the public, the event offers visitors a chance to tour a working dairy farm and learn how UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences helps local farmers produce high-quality milk. UF/IFAS photo by Tyler Jones