April 2, 2014
This weekend, more than 60 students at the State University of New York College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill will carry on an “udder”-ly important tradition: the longest running student-assisted dairy cow sale in the United States, an organizer said Tuesday.
The 33rd annual Dairy Fashion Sale at SUNY Cobleskill is a high-end cattle consignment sale where the students are in charge. The event, which is organized by the college’s Dairy Cattle Club, will take place Saturday at 11 a.m. in the hangar guest stables building at the campus Equestrian Center, next to the Dairy Barn, according to a media release.
John Tryon, SUNY Cobleskill professor of animal science and adviser to the Dairy Cattle Club, said students have sponsored and hosted the event for the past 33 years, longer than any other student-assisted dairy cow sale in the country. When the event was first coming together many years ago, the students called it a “Fashion Sale” because it was occurring in the spring, when many new fashions are unveiled and displayed by designers, he said. The cows are also primped and shown off, Tryon said, and modeled like in a fashion show. The motto for the sale is “where quality cattle are always in style.” “The students coined it a ‘Fashion Sale,’” Tryon said, “and it just stuck.” Students in the Dairy Cattle Club begin organizing and preparing for the event each fall, Tryon said, including communicating with the auctioneer, writing event advertisements for dairy magazines and reaching out to farmers to see if they are interested in consigning any cows. Just like in a clothes consignment store, cows are sent by the owner to the auction to be sold to someone else, with the highest bidder winning the animal. This year, he said, more than 105 cattle will be sold from farms in Maine, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Canada and all across New York.
Samantha Hayes, President of the Dairy Cattle Club and a senior graduating in May 2014, said the club members spend the entire week before the event preparing the cattle by washing, feeding, milking and grazing them.
People from “all around” the state come to buy cows, Tryon said. The cattle are sold for roughly $2,600 a head but, he said, he is hoping for $3,000 per head this year. According to Tryon, most of the proceeds go to the farmer who owns each cow, but portions of the proceeds also go toward the auctioneer, Dave Rama, from the Cattle Exchange and to the Dairy Cattle Club to help fund club activities and scholarships. A total of $3.4 million in gross receipts has been generated in the past from the cattle sale, and last year the club was able to travel to Scotland because of the proceeds.
Diane Dobry, director of communications and marketing at SUNY Cobleskill, said Tryon has been teaching for more than 32 years and will soon retire. Aside from advising the Dairy Cattle Club, he has coached numerous dairy judging teams to victory and taken students on field trips to Holland, England, France and Canada, she said.
In 2013, friends and alumni set up a scholarship fund in Tryon’s name to recognize returning students who are perusing a career in the dairy industry. Alumni and farmers offered to donate a calf for the sale, with proceeds from that sale adding to the scholarship fund. Dobry said a dinner on campus will be held in honor of Tryon on the night before the cow sale.
The sale is a great learning experience for members of the Dairy Cattle Club, Tryon said, whether they are dairy majors, agricultural business majors or agricultural engineering majors.
“It’s a real important experience for them,” Tryon said. “They get to work together through the many details in the preparation and carrying out of the event. They always do a great job.”