Tercero residents: If you think you think you’ve got it bad when it comes to the cow smell, try living among the cows in the UC Davis Dairy Teaching and Research Facility.
That’s what UC Davis students Sina Weisemann and Katie Almand are doing. They are two of four students currently residing in the facility located on campus across the street from the older Tercero dorms.
The dairy provides students the chance to learn more about the veterinary and managerial side of the dairy business.
According to the UC Davis department of animal science website, it also provides researchers use of the facility and about 220 cows for conducting dairy and animal science tests.
Neither student had much experience with cows or dairy facilities prior to attending UC Davis.
Weisemann, a sophomore animal science major, says she had never worked with cows and considered herself more of a horse person.
“I’ve never really even seen cows up close before coming to Davis,” Weisemann said. “I know they’re there, I know they give milk, but that was the extent of my knowledge.”
Weisemann took Animal Science 49 during her first quarter at UC Davis, which introduced her to the dairy. She enjoyed working with the cows, so she began interning during winter quarter.
Her next step was living at the dairy’s residence area during her sophomore year.
“It was the weirdest, most surreal experience ever because I didn’t think I’d be coming to college and milking cows,” Weisemann said.
For Almand, a junior animal science major, the experience was almost the same. Coming from Southern California, she had very little livestock experience. Almand took the Animal Science 49 class and interned at the dairy as well.
Almand found out about the residence program during her first year, when she lived on the agriculture-themed floor of her dorm. In her sophomore year, she knew a couple of friends who had applied to live at the dairy. She decided to try it out in her junior year.
“It’s interesting to look at the managing side and not just the veterinarian side,” Almand said.
The dairy offers undergraduate students more than just experience in their chosen field.
“You work eight hours a week, and the room is free,” Weisemann said. “You don’t have to pay electricity or water or anything. And anything over eight hours you get paid for.”
In addition, transportation to and from class is simple for the girls, since their residences are located on campus.
Students are allowed to stay for a maximum of two years at one animal facility. After that, they either have to leave or transfer to a different facility.
Almand will continue living at the dairy during her senior year, while Weisemann plans on living with her boyfriend during the next school year when he moves to Davis.
Nevertheless, living at the dairy also has its pitfalls. The residences lack some of the luxuries of an average Davis apartment.
“We’re a bit more isolated without neighbors.… And our kitchen is really small,” Almand said.
Other disadvantages come from the active duties required of the residences.
Weisemann has had her share of hazards and misfortune – including walking through a thick layer of manure and urine with a hole in her boot, crashing tractors and doing dirty early-morning shifts.
“A typical day depends on what shift you’re working,” Weisemann said. “If the day sucks, you have the morning feeding, which is at 3:30 in the morning…. The first thing you do is go check pen six, which are all the cows which are due within the next two weeks, to see if anybody is giving birth or has given birth. Then you feed the younger calves…. Then shoveling, some grunt work and then … all the pens have to be raked.”
And of course, there’s always that eau de cow to think about.
“You get really used to it,” Almand said. “You do worry sometimes about how you smell.”
Weisemann learned that the smell took some time to get used to.
“I wasn’t ever really out in the pen [when I took the class],” Weisemann said. “But when I started interning and got out into the pens, my initial reaction was ‘ick’. You look out and it was like, ‘ick, ick.’ I think you kind of get desensitized to it.”
Both Weisemann and Almand agree that the valuable hands-on experience and free housing outweigh the disadvantages.
“The best thing is just the experience,” Weisemann said. “Who gets to live with cows?”
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