UW dairy cows’ home to finally get upgrades

Photo: M.P. King, Wisconsin State Journal

As described in this recent release from UW Communications, the Dairy Cattle Center on the University of Wisconsin’s Madison campus will soon be getting a $3-million upgrade 56 years after it was originally built. “The plans call for replacing the milking parlor – a popular stop for campus visitors – with a new, larger parlor located on the east end of building, as well as replacing the current animal stalls with 82 larger, padded stalls.”

Based on photos and reporting in the Wisconsin State Journal, it looks like the improvements are loooong overdue. As Deborah Ziff writes, “In the last 55 years, cows have been genetically bred to be bigger and provide more milk, [herd manager Mike] Peters said. A cow that weighs 1,800 pounds is living in a stall built for one that weighed 1,200 pounds in the 1950s, meaning her rear end hangs over the edge of the stall into a gutter. The renovation will mean roomier stalls for the cows, better ventilation, a bigger milking parlor for public viewing, and wheelchair accessibility [presumably not for the cows]. It will also provide three new feed silos. The barn currently has six silos but two aren’t used because they are so decrepit, with a sign that reads ‘Don’t Use — Bad.'” After the upgrades, the cows “will rest their rumps on gel mattresses, luxuriate in more spacious stalls, and get fanned by a cool breeze in the summer.” Not quite grazing on pasture, but much better than the uncomfortable old quarters.

According to the Center’s website, “Walk in visitors are welcome to view milking from 4:30 PM to 7:00 PM every day except during home football games.” With renovations slated to begin at the end of May, you have the upcoming spring semester to get a glimpse of the cows’ current digs and see for yourself where the milk in your Babcock ice cream comes from.

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