Johnny Morgan, Jenny, Bruce F.
BATON ROUGE, La. – Before attending Farm Day on April 28-29 at the LSU AgCenter campus dairy, some area youngsters had only seen a cow on television or in a book.
That is the reason the event has been held on the LSU campus each spring for the past 30-plus years, said LSU AgCenter dairy science professor Bruce Jenny.
“We have the different stops setup for the students to get close to the animals and to actually touch them, which will be a first for a lot of these young people,” Jenny said.
Each year students from pre-K to fourth grade from East Baton Rouge and surrounding parishes take a field trip to the dairy farm to see animals and learn about agriculture.
The need for the tour was expressed at the first stop where the children were asked where hamburger came from and the answers ranged from McDonald’s to Wal-Mart. This shows the need for exposure to agriculture, Jenny said.
At Farm Day, the students see traditional farm animals, along with a few exotic animals, too. Past years have included pot belly pigs and an African tortoise.
This year there was a kangaroo, a python, a parrot, a micro mini pig and a hedgehog. With all of the different exciting animals to see, most of the students each year are still most fascinated by Willie, the fistulated steer that has an intentional hole in its side that allows for digestive research.
Some of the students are brave enough to stick their hand in the opening into Willie’s stomach, but more are not.
Whitney Walker, a teacher at Baker Heights Elementary, said seeing the animals was not new to her, but she wanted the students to have this experience because only a few have any experience with farm animals.
“We brought the students out to the dairy farm so they can see how the animals are raised, how they’re fed, how they get milk and other dairy products,” Walker said.
Alexandria Levin, a dairy science student and chairperson for Farm Day this year, said she understands how these elementary school students feel when seeing some of these animals for the first time.
“I had never seen a real cow before I came here for college,” Levin said. “I’m from San Clemente, California, which is close to the beach, so there is more opportunity to see marine animals rather than farm animals.”
Levin said coming to LSU gave her a better chance to work closely with dairy animals because Louisiana still has small family dairy farms, compared to the large commercial type dairy operations in California.
“I would have to drive several hours to have the opportunity these students have here today,” she said.
The Dairy Farm Day is the main fundraiser for the LSU dairy science club. They sell ice cream at the event, and the proceeds help pay for dairy students to travel to their national conference and help with the expenses of Farm Day, Levin said.