University of Maryland Extension

Clarksville’s Working Dairy Farm

Melissa Shaughness, a sophomore animal science major, poses at UMD's dairy farm in Clarksville.
Image Credit: 
Edwin Remsberg

Clarksville is home to one of the University of Maryland’s gems, the working dairy farm at the Central Maryland Research and Education Center (CMREC). The farm provides hands-on experience for students, and a practical research facility for faculty. The farm boasts an impressive award-winning Holstein dairy herd that they show off each year during their visit to the Maryland State Fair. Now, the farm is installing a new, high-tech, well-deserved milking facility that will generate big changes to the farm’s current routines.

With 75 milking and dry cows and 80 replacement heifers, there is a lot for Agriculture and Natural Resources students to learn at CMREC. Introductory and advanced students are able to experience firsthand proper milking procedures, farm management techniques and veterinary practices during lectures and labs at the farm. Throughout the school year, two or three students are able to work part-time at the farm, and three or four students work full-time during the summer. Working students get to observe vet checks, surgical procedures and experience real-world methods for record keeping, feeding calves and cleaning and prepping stalls.

CMREC is also a great place to conduct research. One recent research project studied the influence of potassium and DCAD on dairy feed efficiency. Another project measured cattle brain waves in order to accurately measure stress. Currently, animal stress is measured by taking blood samples to find the level of corticosteriods, which are elevated when the animal is stressed. This study looks for a less invasive way to measure stress.

The quality of cattle and milk produced earns the farm a lot of respect. In 2012, CMREC won the milk quality award from Land O’ Lakes, who regularly buys milk from the dairy. Milk quality is measured by the somatic cell count (SCC) – the number of cells shed from the cow’s udder into the milk. For example, if the cow has an infection, they shed more cells into the milk giving you a lower milk quality. The legal somatic cell limit to ship milk is 750,000 cells/ml. CMREC’s herd SCC is under 100,000 somatic cells/ml. The center also received a milk quality award in 2011 from Dairy One, an information technology cooperative that provides Dairy Herd Improvement record services used by dairy owners to make profit-enhancing decisions.

Click here to read the rest of this article in the current issue of MomentUM magazine.

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