Students, alumni clamor to take care of university's cows

When the coronavirus pandemic forced the University of Vermont to close and send its students home, the school worried about who would take care of cows normally tended to by students. In no time, dozens of alumni and students clamored to spend their spring and summer caring for the Holsteins.

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — When the coronavirus pandemic forced the University of Vermont to close and send its students home, the alarm spread:

What would happen to the cows?

The university’s beloved herd of about 100 dairy cows is normally tended to by students taking part in the Cooperative for Real Education in Agricultural Management program, or CREAM.

In no time, dozens of CREAM alumni and students clamored to spend their spring and summer caring for the Holsteins.

“I would rather do nothing else than this over the summer,” said recent graduate Claudia Sacks, of Macungie, Pennsylvania.

On a recent, hot weekday, she rose in the dark to help milk the cows at 3:30 a.m. By early afternoon she was shoveling out the calves’ stalls. When she sees her favorite cow, Lazlo, she hugs her around the neck and gives her a kiss.

The other six students are passionate, too, about the animals and hope to attend veterinary school. They know the cows by name, how much milk each one is giving, who each cow’s sire is, who she’s bred to and when she’s due to calve, said faculty adviser and veterinarian Dr. Steve Wadsworth.

Many have other jobs as well and are working at the farm because they have a passion for animals and agriculture, he said.

The herd manager, Matt Bodette, couldn’t be more grateful. He was inundated with calls and text messages from students and alumni wanting to help or checking in on the farm. Probably 70 to 80 wanted to take up the work, but UVM only needed seven workers.

“They have really, really shined in every single way possible and I will never forget them,” Bodette said, choking up. “They’ve been like a little family for me and I’m truly grateful.”

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