Story by Sarah Sabatke
After a cramped, eight-hour drive to Madison, Wisconsin, Anna Tarpey and her fellow MU Dairy Club members piled out of their van, crossed the cold parking lot and entered the Emmons Blaine Dairy Cattle Research Center.
The Emmons facility, in America’s Dairyland, is home to roughly 550 dairy cows, among a variety of other animals. That’s as many cows as there are in a typical dairy-producing county in Missouri.
The Mizzou students were given a tour of the center, taking in its vastness and watching employees tend to the herd.
The visit was technically a side trip for the group. They drove to Madison for the World Dairy Expo, which ran from Oct. 4–7. While they enjoyed their time at the expo, Tarpey, the club’s president, hopes something of the tour will stick with the students.
“With each farm tour, each field trip, I hope they’re picking up little ideas of what they enjoy most [about the dairy industry],” she says. “I really believe that the goal of college is to obtain a career you love and get a job you love so you don’t feel like you’re working.”
At the expo, students met dairy industry professionals and learned about various veterinary services, robotic milking systems and sustainable farming practices. In addition to the Emmons center, they also toured several area dairy farms.
Tarpey, a sophomore in animal sciences from St. Louis, doesn’t intend to be a dairy farmer. She would like to be a food-animal veterinarian. Her involvement with the club was not something she had planned.
But, freshman year a professor approached her at the CAFNR Fall Round-Up and asked, “Are you interested in dairy?”
“A little bit,” she replied.
That was all he needed to hear. “Well, you need to join dairy club!” he said.
She showed up to her first meeting and “fell in love with it.” Only a year later, Tarpey is leading the group.
As president, she organizes guest speakers, plans field trips and recruits new members. The club recently held one of its big public events, Calves on Campus, during the Mental Health Carnival. Students could make a donation and receive a T-shirt reading “Support Each Udder” — the donations go toward providing Columbia women with mammograms.
Tarpey says the dairy club has shown her that the agriculture and dairy industries are bigger than she originally thought. At the same time, the connections she’s forged through the club have made campus feel smaller — even homey.
Torpey might be from St. Louis, but her heart is in Columbia. “I always say, ‘Oh, I gotta go back home,’ ” she says. “But I’m talking about Columbia, not St. Louis.”