SKANEATELES | A local farm is one of six farms that brought six cows apiece to the New York State Fair's new birthing center last weekend to show cows giving birth live and spread their message about the dairy industry.
Twin Birch Dairy in Skaneateles is part of Cayuga Marketing Group, a coalition of 25 farms that pool their resources and promote themselves. Twin Birch herds manager Jason Fetzer said the group spearheaded the idea of the birthing center as one of its initiatives on behalf of the farms.
"We buy feed together. We market our milk together," Fetzer said, adding the group is building a milk plant in Auburn that is set to open next year.
Twin Birch was approached by the New York Animal Agriculture Coalition to be one of the farms bringing its cows to the birthing center, and Fetzer said the dairy's owner, Dirk Young, told him the dairy would be taking its animals to the state fair.
"He came to me a few months ago and said, 'You're going to do it,'" Fetzer said last week before bringing the cows to the fair over the weekend. "We had a meeting. They asked us to do it. I'm all for it. Anything to get our message out."
He said he planned to travel with the cows to the state fair on Saturday evening and then spend all day Sunday at the birthing center answering questions from between 5,000 and 7,000 people who were estimated to check out the live births.
Other farmers will be on hand as well, along with veterinary students from Cornell University to provide assistance to the cows. Fetzer said only cows who are ready to give birth will be brought to the fair, and the cows will be induced so they can give birth at the center.
"I'm excited," he said. "It gives us a chance to get our message out."
He added that the dairy industry gets a lot of negative publicity from animal rights organizations, so the birthing center is a chance for the industry to tell its story and get its point across.
"The big message we need to get out is our cows are our life," Fetzer said. "We take care of our cows. If we don't take care of our cows, we don't get paid. ... We do everything we can to keep our cows happy, healthy and productive."
Fetzer said his list of cows who would be ready to give birth around the time of the fair started at 13 but has now been whittled down to eight, as a few of the cows have already given birth.
Besides looking at cows that could give birth at the fair, Fetzer said he also picked out visually appealing cows that would attract people at the fair who may not be as familiar with farm animals.
Some cows from other farms were already at the fair, and the birthing center produced a live feed on the internet where people could go online and watch cows giving birth that way as well.
"I think it's really exciting," said Pat Kehoe, another herds manager at Twin Birch. "We've been watching it all week. ... I'm very impressed by the exhibit."
Both men said they were looking forward to bringing their cows to the fair, giving a live display of a cow giving birth, and answering questions and offering information about the dairy industry.
"On my weekends off, I go promote the dairy industry," Fetzer said. "I'm excited. It gives us a chance to get our message out."