Now in its eighth year, the Birthing Center is put on by the New York Animal Ag Coalition (NYAAC) staff, board and volunteers that help open dialogue up around the state’s dairy industry, which ultimately benefits both consumers and producers. As a not-for-profit organization, the goal for NYAAC is to provide honest, transparent information to fairgoers while providing an opportunity to witness the miracle of life, but more importantly, the chance to converse with farmers one-on-one.
Over the 18-day State Fair, NYAAC coordinates 36 cows who are ready to calve to travel to Syracuse to give birth in front of a live audience. In addition, people can watch from the comfort of their home, as it is livestreamed from their YouTube channel. The live birth cam rolls 24/7, drawing in people from Seattle to the United Kingdom, and everywhere in-between. At the New York State Fair, people can even sign up for a text alert when “udder miracles” are about to happen, so fairgoers can make their way to the Birthing Center and watch the calf being born in person.
The Dairy Cow Birthing Center is truly a labor of love, according to Eileen Jensen, Executive Director of NYAAC. “It’s not exactly an exhibit that comes together overnight or even within a few weeks, but the Dairy Cow Birthing Center at the New York State Fair takes nearly a year to plan and a team of dedicated, passionate people working together.”
With the help of 250 dairy farmers and industry volunteers, this event becomes a big attraction at the New York State Fair. NYAAC collaborates with nine local dairy farms who deliver cows from their herd to the event. Once at the fair, the cows are closely watched by a veterinarian and herdsman who are on-staff during the duration of the fair. During the birth, microphone commentary is provided by farmers ensuring questions are answered and misconceptions are addressed.
According to New York dairy farmer Steve Palladino, the Dairy Cow Birthing Center is a “homerun exhibit.” Serving on the NYAAC board of directors, Palladino has been a repeat volunteer, bringing his cows to calve at the Birthing Center numerous years. “The acceptance and overall positive comments from fairgoers have been overwhelmingly amazing,” he says.
Located an hour away from the state fairgrounds, Palladino and his farm partners milk 1,800 cows and farm 2,400 acres in Lansing, N.Y. While he says he is not big into public speaking, once he starts talking about taking care of cows and why it is important to him, it becomes very easy to talk in front of the fairgoers. “One question leads to another, and I can see the fairgoers absorb what I’m telling them,” Palladino states.
A few years ago, one of the cows from Palladino’s farm was calving and a c-section had to be performed at the fair. With the goal of always being transparent with fairgoers, Palladino insisted it be performed in front of the packed audience. “I was on the mic the whole time and talked them through what was happening,” he says. “You could hear a pin drop and once it was done there was a round of applause for the cow and the vet.”
The Dairy Cow Birthing Center at the Great New York State Fair is held August 20 – September 6 this year. In addition to following the Birthing Center on YouTube, NYAAC will also share the dairy experience on Facebook and Instagram. To receive the “udder miracles” text alerts, text “moo” to 24587.