Imagine farm animals and large green tractors taking over the Brickyard, the crossroads of N.C. State University. What about college deans, N.C. Department of Agriculture officials and a TV weather personality squeezing on Queenie and Plato for all they’re worth in a cow-milking contest at the state’s largest institute of higher learning?
Udder-ly ridiculous you say? Not so much.
The N.C. State chapter of Alpha Zeta, an honors agriculture fraternity, has been hosting Agriculture Awareness Week activities in the heart of campus since Sunday.
A beef cow and her calf occupied one pen. Three eight-week old piglets, two sheep, two young dairy calves and two Alpacas lounged under a tent. A couple of large tractors and other farm machinery were parked nearby.
The display drew curious engineers and computer geeks as well as other students to take pictures and talk to the animals.
“It’s to raise awareness about agriculture and the culture that surrounds it for students and visitors,” said Sarah Montoya, a junior Animal Science major and one of the coordinators of the event from the Alpha Zeta fraternity.
Brothers (which include women) from the fraternity have stayed with the animals 24 hours a day, every day, to make sure they are safe, watered and fed. Fraternity members come and go in shifts, taking turns fielding questions, bringing hay, bringing water and scooping what needs to be scooped from the cages.
Wednesday featured a milking competition between WRAL-TV weather personality Elizabeth Gardner, N.C. Department of Agriculture attorney Tina Hlabse and Associate Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Sam Pardue.
“I just hope she keeps her tail where it needs to be,” Pardue remarked as he sat down on a milk crate and bellied up to Plato. The Holstein’s full udders were ready for his test.
The contestant with the most milk in the bucket at the end of one minute was declared the winner. With only two cows and three contestants, Pardue and Gardner went first, the winner taking on Hlabse. Gardner won by a squirt or two, and then made short work of Hlabse to take the title.
N.C. State has taken countless jests over the years about being the “Cow College” from arch rival UNC. Weren’t they worried about giving the enemy ammunition with this event?
“Oh, we’ve got an answer for that,” Pardue replied, quick to defend his school. “We say, ‘Whenever you get fed, think Red!’”