View of the small side pastuer next to the dairy unit


Cal Poly: The Place for Hands-On Experience

Cal Poly is one of the top programs in the nation when it comes to dairy science. With a dairy on campus, students are able to work directly with the herd on campus. They are able to assist with production, processing, reasearch and technology.


Walk to the backside of campus and you'll start to smell something strong...something a little alarming. Continue towards that distinct smell and you'll make your way to the Cal Poly Dairy. Here students not only live, but work daily to help with the milking process as well as making sure the cows and calves are well taken care of.

Cal Poly is one of six institutions to have a dairy center of excellence in the United States.
Students are given the opportunity to conduct research, observe animals and work with
advanced technology. Photo Credit: Alejandra Garcia Traditional college living typically consists of apartments, houses or dorms. However, Cal Polyoffers seven students the opportunity to live on the dairy itself. The seven students consist of
three students on the dairy but four more in Dairy Ag Housing. Photo Credit: Alejandra Garcia The inside of building 18 contains the residents bedrooms, awards and trophies won over the
years as well as a viewing area of the milking process. Walk along the right side of the building
and it will lead out to the other pastures, hospital pen and calf units. Photo Credit: Alejandra Garcia The distinct smell of manure is detected upon entering the back side of campus. When asked if
they get used to it, Will Greenwood just laughs with a nod. There are two different types of cows on campus. The traditional black and white cow is a
Holstein and the light brown are called Jersey cattle. Photo Credit: Alejandra Garcia The students who live on the dairy have several responsibilities. Every Wednesday one
resident will go down to the hospital pen (located on the left) and work with sick cows. “And that
includes diagnosing and prescribing treatments,” explains Greenwood. Photo Credit:  Alejandra Garcia Greenwood also manages a group of workers who tend to the calves and make sure they have
adequate food, water and remain healthy. Photo Credit: Alejandra Garcia Calf births are quite frequent on campus. “We average about two to three calves born a week.
Sometimes they come in clusters and sometimes we go a little while without having a calf,”
explains Greenwood. Students in the dairy calf enterprise class (ASCI 290) get to name the
calves as they’re born. Photo Credit: Alejandra Garcia Most of the birthing process is done by the mother and doesn’t involve much human
involvement like a lot of people think. This lack of intervention is to give the mom and baby the
best chance at being safe and healthy. “Once the calf is born, we move it to it’s own pen in
order to give it vaccines and it’s first milk called colostrum (which contains an abundance of
antibodies) and sanitizing its naval (equivalent to an umbilical cord),” says Crimson Kaiser, third
year animal science major. Photo Credit: Alejandra Garcia Cal Poly has about 400 animals on site. While that is an outstanding statistic, only half of those animals get milked. “And all the cows get milked twice a day,” Greenwood says with a slight
laugh. Photo Credit: Alejandra Garcia The cows are loaded in what is called a double ten parallel parlor where each side of the
machine holds ten cows. Although done with a machine, there is still a good amount of human
labor involved “pushing the cows out of their pen, into the parlor and the actual cleaning of the
teats and what’s called priming them,” says Will Greenwood. Photo Credit:  Alejandra Garcia Milking takes anywhere from 3 to 4 hours. The two rounds of milking start at 3:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Photo Credit: Alejandra Garcia Not all who work and live on the dairy came from an agriculture background. William
Greenwood, of Long Beach, California wanted to explore and try something different and
thought dairy science would be perfect for him to reach his career goal. “I’d like to become a
large animal veterinarian.” Photo Credit: Alejandra Garcia An immense amount of passion is found in those who work on the dairy or are engaged in any
of the processes whether it be delivering babies, working the machinery or tending to the cows.
Kaitlyn Mitchell, dairy science major, finally gets a warm greeting after being ignored for a
couple of minutes. Photo Credit: Alejandra Garcia Students get to fully embrace Cal Poly’s motto of “Learn by Doing.” “Being able to go from a
classroom to a dairy makes the hands on experience Cal Poly promises more available to any
student interested in the dairy industry,” says Makenna Young, second year animal science
major. Photo Credit: Alejandra Garcia Cody Thompson, dairy science third year, pushes the food (consisting of hay, corn, grass and
supplements) towards the cows. Students who live on the dairy are frequently on call in case of
an emergency. After a long day of milking, tending and grooming, they hit the hay and start all
over again. Photo Credit: Alejandra Garcia


What is the best thing about the Cal Poly Dairy? Here are three responses from both students and a professor about their favorite parts of this program.


We're live from the 4:30 a.m. This two to three hour process involves both milking the cows and feeding the calves. The technology these students are able to use make the process go by faster than if they were milking by hand, but it can still be a long and tiring process.


Cal Poly by the numbers...Here is an interactive graph showing how many students are enrolled in the program, where our school is ranked among others and the various different classes offered within this major.

Cal Poly Dairy