March 2, 2005
Dr. S. Marx
Arriving at the outskirts of Cal Poly’s campus, past the crop unit, the veterinary clinic, and the orchards, one will be greeted by the obscure Eugene and Rachel Boone Dairy Science Complex. Although most students are oblivious about this building’s existence, it plays host to one of the United States’ largest Dairy Science programs. Furthermore, Cal Poly is the sole university on the West Coast that offers a major dedicated specifically to Dairy Science. Compared to most majors at Cal Poly, Dairy Science is significantly smaller with only 125 undergraduate students. However, even with this few students, the complex has over $12 million dollars invested in the new building over the past 15 years. The Dairy Cattle Instructional Center, constructed in 1992 at a total cost of $4.5 million, provides students with a milking parlor, classrooms, labs, and specialized dairy application software. The Dairy Products Technology Center, that cost $7.5 million when constructed in 1996, allows students to research small projects and test technology new to this industry. The $12 million dollar investment in this program insures that Dairy Science students are given every opportunity to excel in this career field as dairy farmers are currently in short supply.
The entire Eugene and Rachel Boone Dairy Science Complex is managed in a clean, orderly manner. It is difficult to believe that this facility, consisting of 80 Holstein milking cows and 85 Jersey milking cows, is more sanitary than my own room. The cows are milked twice a day in the milking parlor. Each Holstein cow gives an average of 9 gallons of milk a day and each Jersey cow gives an average of 6 gallons. Eight cows can be milked at a time in the parlor. From a large viewing window on the second floor, the machines in the parlor look high-tech and efficient. Along with milk, ice cream, butter, cheese and cottage cheese are also produced in a processing plant managed by students.
Dairy Science students are required to take general classes where they learn basic features and production techniques in the dairy field. They are then given the opportunity to design their own curriculum from a wide variety of classes, depending on which career each individual wishes to pursue. Courses offered include: dairy products technology, agriculture education for future teachers, pre-veterinary studies, dairy industry, and classes in production and processing.
Guided by nine faculty members, the dairy unit is entirely student-run. The 125 students in this major are employed part-time by the Dairy Science program. Students are able to devote much of their time learning the field and do not have to worry about managing a separate job, as they are basically paid to study. By allowing students to experience the world of dairy hands-on, Cal Poly is upholding its motto of “Learning By Doing.” Students do everything from feeding the cows, raising calves, artificially inseminating cows, and managing the processing of dairy products. When ready to graduate, the skills these Dairy Science majors acquired from Cal Poly can immediately be put to use in the real world.
Students embrace and test technology as they research new options for dairy farmers. Dairy techniques are constantly being tweaked to provide the highest quality and quantity of production. Through research, the faculty members of the Dairy Science complex decide which of these techniques are fundamental for students to learn and suitable for maintaining healthy cows. Cal Poly’s dairy unit currently uses the Bovine growth hormone, a relatively new, yet controversial, technology.
Bovine growth hormone, approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1993, is
injected biweekly into cows to increase milk production. This genetically
engineered growth hormone is similar to one naturally produced by many animals,
including cows and humans, in the pituitary gland and is necessary for normal
growth. This hormone allows the cows to produce up to 25% more milk than they
could without it.
There are zero known side-affects for humans that consume products produced by cows injected with the Bovine growth hormone. However, long-term studies on the health affects it may have on humans have not been completed, as this procedure has only been available for only 10 years. There is the looming potential that long-term consumption could cause problems (Shirley’s Wellness Café).
Although there are currently no apparent health issues caused by the Bovine growth hormone for humans, independent studies by numerous scientists and farmers have shown substantial evidence that it causes several problems for cows. Most small dairy farmers choose not to use this hormone for their herds due to the increased mortality rate of cattle. According to Dr. Samuel Epstein, author of Got (Genetically Engineered) Milk?, a high number of utter[SM1] infections occur in Bovine treated cows, which increases the amount of pus that ends up in milk. These infections must be treated with an antibiotic and the residue also contaminates milk.
With all these possible health concerns for the cows, why would Cal Poly’s Dairy unit choose to use the Bovine growth hormone? Dr. Ferreira, Head of the Dairy Science Department and Director of the Dairy Product Technology Research Center, claims, “The milk from cows using the Bovine growth hormone has the same amount of the hormone as milk from cows that do not use the hormone.” Each cow can typically only be milked for 3-5 years and Cal Poly sees no noticeable difference in their health due to this hormone. The increased production helps generate revenue to provide this program with high-tech equipment and resources. Another huge source of revenue for the Dairy unit is the one-hundred thousand dollar yearly donation from the drug company Monsanto, manufacture of the Bovine growth hormone. Monsanto gives the Dairy unit this money regardless of whether or not Cal Poly purchases its product, but this probably influences why Cal Poly uses this hormone on its cows.
The cows that were injected with the hormone do maintain higher levels of it in their bodies after they die and should not be eaten. As many consumers are health-conscious and obsessed with organic food, the awareness of the Bovine issue is growing. It is clear that many are not willing to risk the potential effects of the hormone, so most producers have ceased to use it. Most of the criticism about this hormone comes from animal activists groups and other groups that are health concerned. The Food and Drug Administration has been able to provide rebuttals for every argument presented, but only more research will really prove whether or not the drug is dangerous. However, the FDA has retracted many drugs from the market that it originally deemed as safe before taking all the necessary precautions and this drug could end up on that list. If proven hazardous to health, Cal Poly will terminate usage of the hormone injections, because the Dairy unit takes excellent care of its cows as they cost about $2000 each.
Each cow in the Dairy Unit eats better than most people do. The cows are fed a mix of different grains with all the necessary dietary components to be in the best possible health. This allows for the cows to produce the highest quality and quantity of milk. The cows are allotted with a plentiful amount of land to roam around on and are given every opportunity to live comfortably. Should the cows ever get sick, the hospital/maternity barn is available and helps the cows return to top condition quickly.
Cal Poly clearly cares a lot about its Dairy Science program to have invested this much money in it. The cows are treated well and provide plenty of milk. Students are able to take their knowledge work in the dairy field. But with only 125 students in this major and not much more interest in the program, could the money be better spent somewhere else? If students were more aware of this program, more interest would be generated. There is a great demand for people to work in this field, as California yields the largest amount of dairy products in the United States. Cal Poly should advertise the Dairy Science unit and let it be known that students involved in this major are presented excellent career opportunities[SM2].
"Report on the Food and Drug Administration's Review of the Safety of Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin." 1993. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 1 March 2005. <http://www.fda.gov/cvm/index/bst/RBRPTFNL.htm>.
“About the Dairy Science Department.” 2000. California Polytechnic State University Dairy Science Department. 1 March 2005. <http://www.calpoly.edu/%7Edsci/about.html>.
“Genetically engineered Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH/BST) in Your Milk.” 2005. Shirley’s Wellness Café. 1 March 2005. <http://www.shirleys- wellness-cafe.com/bgh.htm>.
[SM2]Laura—this is a thorough and careful revision that renders this a complete and fluent paper, full of easily accessible information and informed analysis of the controversy.