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W.Va. State Fair: Live Dairy Cow Births Bring In The Crowds

dairy pic.jpg
Randy Yohe
/
West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Dairy farm owner Remington Perkins with a barn full of pregnant cows ready to give birth.

One of the most popular and unique exhibits throughout the past 10 years at the State Fair of West Virginia is the Dairy Birthing Center.

In an exhibit barn complete with bleachers for an audience, 20 pregnant cows, all at or near full term, wait to give birth.

Dairy Birthing Center exhibit director Remington Perkins is owner/operator of Perk Farm Organic Dairy. He started breeding 60 cows on his nearby Frankfort, West Virginia farm last November.

“We’re trying to play the odds game,” Perkins said. “We brought 20, and as these calve, we will leave some of the calves here for the kids to play with and take the mom's home, start milking them and bring more pregnant moms down.”

Other fair activities happen on schedule, say at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. Perkins said there’s no timetable for giving birth, so he waits for telltale signs to cue a fairgrounds-wide announcement.

“As soon as we see a water bag come out, we know that she will calve within an hour,” Perkins said. “Once that happens, we'll call the announcer at the fair here, they will put it over the P.A. system, and the crowd shows up.”

Perkins said the exhibit allows non-farm folks to better understand where their food comes from. He had an explanation for those who get upset that they take the newborn calves away from their moms right away.

“We explain to them that these cows are bred to give enough milk for 5, 6, 7 or 8 calves,” Perkins said. “If we only left the one calf with her, the mom would get sick and the calf would get sick from having too much milk. We want the calves to think of us as mom.”

Perkins is a third generation farmer; his family dairy goes back to 1942. He said to survive in today’s corporate dominated agriculture economy the small dairy farm needs a niche, like producing organic milk.

“The Organic Valley is the company that we sell our milk to,” Perkins said. “You can buy it at the local Walmart, and that has made a huge difference in our farm. It's a flat milk price and we know at the beginning of the year what we're going to get paid all year long. It has stabilized our farm and allowed us to start investing back into the farm and bring the next generation back to the farm successfully.”

When you’re at the State Fair of West Virginia, listen for that P.A. announcer’s call to the Dairy Birthing Center barn - and see something brand new enter the world.

Government Reporter, ryohe@wvpublic.org, 304-634-8123

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