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A&M Dairy Center shuts its doors

Published: Thursday, February 20, 2003

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 19:07

Texas A&M's Dairy Center which has been housed at A&M since 1886, will close its doors this August after more than 50 years, leaving dairy workers out of a job and putting A&M's dairy science program in jeopardy.

Twenty-five people will lose their jobs because of the closing announced Wednesday, and many say this could be the end of the dairy science program at A&M.

Laura Hamilton, calf manager at the center, said the mismanagement that has been cited as a reason for the closing could have been prevented.

"There are plans for a new Dairy Center dating back to 1980 that was never built," she said. "There weren't any improvements made to the existing center or equipment with the money that was set aside."

The current center has not had major renovations since 1952, when the center was first built, she said. To help pay for improvements, the Dairy Center sold several cows in 1996 to replace asbestos shingles on the buildings.

"The money from those cows did not go toward improvements like it should have," Hamilton said.

Dr. John McNeill, head of the animal science department, said the center will still be selling cows and equipment until it closes.

Financial reasons are to blame for closing the center. College Station is not a good place to milk cows because of the weather, McNeill said.

"We are not reducing our commitment by these actions -- we are simply going to cease milking cows in College Station," according to The Associated Press.

"Current state budget recissions just accentuated the need to close the center," McNeill said.

Cody Martindale, head feeder at the Dairy Center, said the financial and environmental reasons McNeill gave for closing the facility are unfounded.

"We lost $40,00 last year but we made it all up," Martindale said. "We have passed all state and USDA regulations for the year."

Sixteen of A&M's 1,001 animal science students are majoring in dairy science.

The 400-acre dairy center is home to 115 milk cows. Half of the land is used for pastures and hay production. The center's lecturer and maintenance worker will be reassigned within A&M, McNeill said.

"The vet school, as well as several animal science classes, use the center,"

Hamilton said. "Practically everyone uses us."

She also said the dairy science department has had a high employment rate for all graduates for the past 10 years.

Jeff Kirkwood, head milker at the Dairy Center said no one knows yet what will happen to the Center and all its supplies.

"We're pretty sure the buildings will be torn down due to the lack of repairs for so many years," he said.

Kirkwood is one of four people who live in a house on the Dairy Center's property and said the job is very personal. Workers spend time off the clock taking care of sick animals and nursing them back to health, he said.

Cody Martindale, head feeder at the Dairy Center, said the financial and environmental reasons McNeill gave for closing the facility are unfounded.

"We lost $40,00 last year but we made it all up," Martindale said. "We have passed all state and USDA regulations for the year."

Martindale said students interested in dairy science may choose not to

come to A&M because of the lack of hands-on experience offered

from now on.

"Closing the Dairy Center is like trying to take the "A" out of A&M," he said.

The Dairy Center will fulfill its requirements of participating in state competitions until they officially close. Its livestock will be sold at a private auction when the doors finally shut.

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