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Principals to get kids help in campaign to save Jersey cow herd

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Principals at Marshall County schools have been asked by the school system's instruction supervisors to get their students involved in the county commissioners' protest against a proposal to move the state's Jersey cow herd from Lewisburg to Spring Hill.

Administrators with the University of Tennessee have advised county commissioners that they believe moving the Jersey herd to Spring Hill, where Holstein cows are milked and pastured, would provide operating cost savings as the state faces severe budget cuts because of the recession.

"We need your help," Elementary Instruction Supervisor Becky Hill and Secondary Instruction Supervisor Beverly Miller wrote last week to the principals. "We would like the school children of the county to get involved in a letter-writing campaign to 'Save the Jersey Cow Herd.'

"The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture is planning to restructure two area research programs, which will affect the Dairy AgResearch and Education Center in Lewisburg," Hill and Miller said in their letter dated Feb. 25. "The plan is to move the 140 Jersey cows to the AgResearch and Education Center in Spring Hill and leave Lewisburg only with beef heifers."

The instruction supervisors list 18 writing content standards that can be used during the letter writing campaign so that the students' participation can be part of an instructional exercise.

Hill and Miller provided facts about the Jersey herd and the research center here so principals could share with teachers and students for the letters to be collected on Friday next week, March 13.

The letters are to be placed in a farm milk can and taken to state lawmakers before they vote on the restructuring of the two AgResearch Centers.

Letters are to be addressed to State Sen. Bill Ketron, 12 Jefferson Square, 805 So. Church St., Murfreesboro, TN 37130, and State Rep. Eddie Bass, 1015 Bass Road, Prospect, TN 38477.

Meanwhile, Gov. Phil Bredesen was scheduled to speak to the Tennessee County Services Association at 8:30 this morning for County Government Day starting at the Sheraton Nashville Downtown, 623 Union St.

"I'm going to try to be there," County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett said. "I probably wouldn't get a chance to at that time; maybe at another more convenient time for him. We'd have to look for a time with his staff.

"We're still trying to gather support at the state level and to educate folks on what it means to this area," Liggett said. "Most of the people we've talked to are encouraging, but nothing is definite. We have no guarantees."

One of the people who've heard the call for support and said he planed to act on it is Andy Henson.

He said he planned to go to the Legislative Plaza on Tuesday to persuade lawmakers to continue funding for the dairy herd here. Henson has been active in supporting candidates.

Established in 1929 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the dairy farm on New Lake Road was merged with the University of Tennessee in 1948 and has been "one of the largest milk-producing herds in the world," the instruction supervisors wrote.

It represents more than $1 million dollars in revenue from goods and services returned to Marshall County each year, they said. Marshall County is the fourth largest dairy county in the state.

County commissioners have adopted a resolution protesting the cows' planned move and petitions are circulating across the county for residents' signatures, the supervisors said.

The Dairy Experiment Station influences the dairy industry world-wide, according to the resolution. The center has "one of the most valuable gene pools in the industry while the top Jersey herd in milk production of its size in the United States resides at this location."

Commissioners directed County Clerk Daphne Fagan to send a copy of the resolution to Ketron and Bass.

Students are to be encouraged to "write a persuasive paper with a clearly focused argument and relevant supporting details," the instruction supervisors said. They're also to "write to inform a particular audience about a specific issue."

Hill and Miller told principals that it would be "quite impressive" if the students could produce about 4,500 letters.

"The smaller children may also wish to enclose hand-drawn pictures," Hill and Miller said.