Friday, December 26, 2014

UCD dairy department awaits new facilities


Samantha Eisner, an animal science major at UC Davis, says hello to one of her four-legged charges at the UC Davis Dairy Barn. The dairy is scheduled to be moved from its current home east of Aggie Stadium, near the Tercero residence halls, sometime by mid-2016. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

From page A1 | April 22, 2014 |

The UC Davis Dairy Teaching and Research Facility may soon be moved and receive some long-awaited upgrades.

The facility occupies 10 acres — five of which are for feed storage and barn corrals, the other five of which are for grazing for a herd of about 200 head. The dairy is scheduled to be moved to one of several locations by mid-2016, UCD officials say.

Two possible locations, each about 14 acres, have been named so far. Dan Sehnert, animal facilities coordinator for the department of animal science said the sites are near the intersection of Hutchison Drive and Hopkins Road at the north end of the University Airport runway near the Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, or between the sheep and beef barns on Brooks Road near Highway 113.

The facility’s existing five acres of grazing land are scheduled to become a women’s field hockey arena soon, he said, which would temporarily strain grazing space for the herd.

Barns currently used for sleeping corrals and food storage were built in the 1950s with a low roof height, which causes heat to be trapped in the summertime. The facility combats the heat by misting down and fanning cows on hot days, said Sehnert, who hopes that the new roof height can be at least doubled from its current 12 feet.

“There are a lot of different phases to this,” Sehnert said. “It’s building a new dairy and a new animal science teaching facility.”

The teaching facility would be moved to Putah Creek Lodge Road where there is an abandoned waste water treatment facility, he added.

The old waste water facility, which is now home to the campus electric shop, would need demolition (costing about $2 million); another $1 million would be needed to relocate the electric shop, he said.

A year ago, a UCD firm gave a preliminary estimate of $13.5 million in expenses for a new dairy, and $3.8 million for the new animal science teaching facility. A newer estimate this spring — from an outside consulting firm — projected the teaching facility at closer to $8 million, he added.

“Once you get into the details — housing, lighting and temperature controls for animal rooms —” the costs increase, Sehnert said.

The current animal science teaching facility, near the water tower adjacent to the dairy facility, was completed about 1960 to house approximately 350 undergrads. Today there are approximately 1,100 students. There is a need for more classroom space for the 17 lab sections per week with 20 students per lab, he added.

The new teaching facility would bump the number of classrooms to three instead of the current two.

“We probably need more but we’re happy to get it,” Sehnert said.

The dairy facility’s website notes that the milking parlor was reduced from a 12 herringbone layout to six in the early ’90s. There were promises to expand later but it never happened, said Ed DePeters of the Dairy Teaching Research Facility, who has worked at UCD since 1979.

The university’s dairy production currently supports a small staff plus undergraduate pre-veterinary students who help care for the 110 Holsteins and jerseys, who produce about 1,000 gallons of milk per day, DePeters said.

Students working with the cattle learn the signs of health as well as the practical aspects of milking cows.

Ears down and droopy eyes can be telltale signs of a bacterial infection, while ears up and eyes bright — as seen in Holstein calf No. 2588, born March 24 — are signs of good health, DePeters said.

No. 2588 was given her mother’s first milk within six hours of birth — colostrum containing antibodies for the calf to maintain passive immunity for two to three months until her own active immune system kicks in.

Several score of young calves here are taken from their mothers after birth and fed a milk replacer and a mixture feed of barley, oats, molasses, canola, corn and a protein pellet.

Samantha Eisner, 19, a freshman animal science major, keeps an eye on her favorite calf.

“I call her Gucky,” she said. “She has these really wide eyes and it looks like they have stuff in them. She was born Jan. 6.”

DePeters said a new dairy facility on 14 acres of land may be enough space.

“We could never be the size of a commercial dairy,” he said. “To have 1,000 to 2,000 cows would be difficult for us. That gets to be a job. Our goal and why we’re here is for teaching, research and for outreach.”

He would like to see additional space for fermenting silage and a separate space for food storage.

“We don’t have a commodity barn,” DePeters said.

The facility currently relies on a temporary makeshift storage for whole cotton seed, almond hulls and corn grain, which are mixed in mixer wagons two to three times per day.

— Reach Jason McAlister at



Jason McAlister

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