ESPN creates video clips of SDSU Dairy program |

ESPN creates video clips of SDSU Dairy program

Ethan Johnson is pictured here (holding the brown container) with other SDSU students in the dairy manufacturing plant at SDSU. ESPN took the photo and shared it with the students photographed. Photo by ESPN

While milking a cow takes physical strength, excellent timing and quick reactions, it is not generally thought of as a sport.

So it surprised South Dakota State University dairy students when sports network ESPN asked to record footage of the college’s farm and dairy plant last week.

The network was already on campus to cover the Oct. 26, football game between the Jackrabbits and their rival, the North Dakota State University Bison.

“SDSU is unique because we have a research farm and a dairy plant,” said Dairy Club secretary and SDSU sophomore Ethan Johnson. He said the network was also interested in finding out more about the program that invented cookies and cream ice cream.

“It was an awesome experience. They were really interested in what we were doing,” he said. The videographers spent about two hours watching and recording the ice-cream making process before taste-testing several different SDSU flavors, he said.

“The were asking us questions like where we grew up and how we got interested in dairy and how we make ice cream.”

Before the camera crews arrived at the manufacturing plant, they spent time at the farm where a new calf had just been born, said Vikram Mistry, a professor in the department.

Watching the care of the fresh baby calf was “incredible” for the crew, said Mistry. “This was something very unique for them, to see the whole process from cow to product.”

The care of the cows was easy for the camera crew to see, said Mistry. “Student workers were feeding, they saw all of that. It was quite exciting for them, just to see all of that, and then to film it, too.”

SDSU offers Dairy Production, Dairy Manufacturing and Food Science as majors and boasts a 100 percent placement rate. About 110 students are enrolled in one of those three programs. Some are even double majors, striving for two of those degrees.

“The key units that support the department are the dairy farm for dairy research and training, and the Davis Dairy Plant,” said Mistry.

About 130 Holstein and Brown Swiss cows are milked at the farm. About one-third of the milk from those cows is processed at the plant for pasteurized milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurt, butter, dried milk powder, or used for research. Cheese and ice cream are the two biggest uses of the milk. The other two-thirds of the milk, which amounts to about 2 million pounds, is sold to a commercial dairy.

While there was a time that the university food service establishments utilized university-produced milk but this is no longer the case, said Mistry.

The university grows most of its own feed including hay and silage.

Johnson, a dairy manufacturing major, grew up on a 100-cow dairy in southwestern Minnesota.

He hopes to return to the family farm one day. “There is a future in the family dairy farm,” he said, although he acknowledges extreme challenges for smaller dairy farmers such as his family.

“There are a lot of outside market forces affecting our prices, like the weather around the world and trade policy,” he said. “The last three years have been tough for us small farms. I kind of hoped to maybe one day still be active in the farm. I hope there is still a future in it,” he said. Meanwhile, upon graduating, he hopes to work on direct marketing in an effort to compete in a big marketplace.

“It was a really cool thing that ESPN featured dairy manufacturing,” he said.

“Maybe that 30 second clip on national television could impact someone in a way that they might want to come to our school. It was neat to be a part of that.”

NDSU won their 29th straight game with a hard-fought 23-16 victory over the Jackrabbits.

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