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UVM dairy herd for sale

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Charlotte, Vermont - June 22, 2010

Just off Spear Street in South Burlington, UVM's registered Holsteins graze in Tuesday's sunshine and charm local visitors at the school's Miller Farm. But their days there are numbered. After a year of discussions, the University of Vermont has placed its research cow herd-- all 255 animals-- on the auction block. It all amounts to money or a lack of it.

"The classic model for doing research at land grants has been to have a centralized farm facility where research happens. And these times when budgets are getting a little thinner and stretched one has to imagine a different ways for doing things," said Tom Vogelmann of the UVM College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Cost-cutting measures began last year when UVM had to cut its budget and ultimately sent just under half of the herd to the Nordic Farm in Charlotte. All are up for sale and will preferably be sold as a single package.

So instead of taking care of and conducting research on site, UVM will take this major piece of research off site, to local farms it plans to partner with through a new initiative called the Vermont Dairy Center for Excellence. UVM scientists will be sent off site to work with private farmers.

"It really presents, I think, a marvelous opportunity because if you consider what we have-- we have one farm, one location and then you can imagine what's out in this state," Vogelmann said. "We have first class dairy operations with different needs, different problems, and so we're looking to engage them."

Vogelmann says UVM's ag students will still have plenty of opportunity to do hands-on work with other animals on site, and with these 65 cows that will stay behind as part of the school's CREAM program; the Cooperative for Real Education in Agriculture Management. He says the school may be the first to break from the traditional research model, but probably won't be the last.

"We're eager to get going on the Dairy Center for Excellence," Vogelmann said. "It's a model we feel is the way to pave the way to the future and we think is an example where Vermont could potentially lead the nation."

He says it's partner or perish in the world of land grant institutions. Like private farms, this public institution must diversify in order to survive.

UVM is accepting bids for the next month. The entire herd is currently valued at just over $342,000. Vogelmann says the proceeds from the sale will then be funneled directly into UVM's research initiatives.

Bridget Barry Caswell - WCAX News

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