UCONN's herd not only provides food and educational outreach to the community, it is also a center for a scientific research. For example, under various federal, state, and privately funded research grants, professors and scientists at the university study bovine ketosis, a metabolic disorder, and advanced ultrasounding to detect any signs of mastitis in the herd.
Mary-Margaret Cole, who graduated with a BS from UCONN in 1989, worked at Hyde's Dairy Farm for four years as their herdsman before returning to the university to become their farm manager. The university gets many thousands of visitors each year, and one of Mary-Margaret's goals is to present the cleanest, most comfortable barn to the public that they have ever seen. "We want to make the environment as comfortable and stress-free as possible for the cows," says Mary-Margaret, "and we recently installed soft mattresses with pine sawdust for all the cattle. A happy, comfortable cow tends to produce more and better milk, and we think that's an important lesson to pass on to the students and the public."
There are about 150 students in each year's freshman class, and most of them go on to become veterinarians, ruminant nutritionists, artificial inseminators, and dairy farmers. A big part of the program's mission is public outreach, and people come through their facility every day to watch the milking process, learn about herd health, and see how a dairy farm is run. Kids are encouraged to pet the calves and engage in other hands-on activities, which makes the experience even more meaningful and lasting for them. While most of the tours are self-guided, students and staff are always available to answer questions and share information. UCONN's program is also a big draw for other VoAg programs in New England, and Mary-Margaret often finds herself personally guiding groups of students from other colleges and universities as well as 4H and FFA members through UCONN's barn and farm as part of the other schools' curricula.