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Students manage and milk their own herd to ready for dairy careers

Posted by | July 1, 2016

Not many college students spend their free time milking Holsteins. Lindsey Richmond is one of the lucky few.

Richmond, a senior in the Department of Animal Sciences at Washington State University, works several days a week at WSU’s Knott Dairy Farm as part of a select learning group: The Cooperative University Dairy Students or CUDS.

CUDS president and WSU senior Lindsey Richmond takes care of new calves at the Knott Dairy Center.
CUDS president and WSU senior Lindsey Richmond takes care of new calves at the Knott Dairy Center.

CUDS members raise, milk and manage about 35 dairy cows, in a full-time operation that demands four daily shifts. In the summer, with fewer students in Pullman, Richmond takes on extra shifts, milking the herd and keeping cows and calves healthy. Milk from the student herd goes to the WSU Creamery for cheese and ice cream.

Richmond, a first-generation college student from Mukilteo, came late to farming.

“I fell into it—I didn’t grow up around agriculture at all,” she said.

Out of high school, Richmond knew she wanted to work with large animals. Zoology seemed a possible fit, but she ended up pursuing animal science at WSU. After taking

introductory dairy classes, Richmond was drawn into the practical science of cows and milk. Two years ago, she decided to join CUDS.

“Because I didn’t grow up around agriculture, the learning curve was steep,” Richmond said. “But I was always out here at the farm, learning new things and getting involved. Now, I want to be part of the dairy industry.”

Richmond is part of the WSU Dairy Challenge Team, traveling across the country for practical knowledge competitions. Elected president of CUDS by her peers, Richmond is also president of the WSU Pre-Veterinary Club.

She admits that it can be a challenge to balance studies and activities. But CUDS’ hands-on experience is well worth it to her.

“It’s fresh air, work, and animals who enjoy your company,” Richmond said. “We have a small herd, and you get to know the cows’ and calves’ personalities really well.” Cows with names like Duchess and Ruby love to get scratches and are curious what their handlers are up to.

CUDS members make management decisions by parliamentary procedure and majority vote, acting as a team.

Each of CUDS’ 13 members are assigned a chair position for areas such as finance, nutrition and milk quality. These roles let members gain deeper knowledge of dairy management.

Chairs must educate their fellow members and work on projects to improve herd performance and management plans. At an annual review every November, CUDS members present their work to a panel of industry professionals, who share feedback to help inform the next year’s goals.

“You make connections in the industry, and learn a lot of management skills,” Richmond said. “Everybody comes from a different background and has their own ideas. You have to be open-minded, be able to lead and to step back. Learning to balance that will be helpful for my future career.”

After graduation, Richmond plans to study reproductive physiology in graduate school, then earn her doctorate of veterinary medicine. She is also conducting research for an honors thesis under Animal Sciences Assistant Professor Dr. Martin Maquivar.

CUDS has given Richmond a greater appreciation for dairy industry.

“I see the work that goes into milk,” she said. “We need hardworking people in dairy.

“It’s taught me where my food comes from,” Richmond added.

• Learn more about CUDS here.

• Learn more about Animal Sciences at WSU here.