“We Do That!” – Dairy Research

by | May 11, 2024

The fourth video in the “We Do That!” series focuses on the Research Stations Division and highlights the job of dairy unit manager Kira Wetmore. As with the other videos in the series, the goal is to showcase one of the many different types of jobs within the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. If you can think of a type of job, there’s a chance “We Do That!” in the department – from the fields of research farms to the laboratories that test for animal disease and food and drug safety. It takes lots of jobs to service the people of North Carolina through the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Across the department’s 26 divisions, you’ll find jobs in the field that deal with plants, animals, farmers markets or ag centers, pesticide regulations, pollinators, meat processing, truck driving and forestry, just to name a few. Many jobs in the department are also based in offices or laboratories, from veterinary or agronomic testing, to accounting, legal services and marketing.

The series continues with this video of Commissioner Steve Troxler talking with Wetmore, who has been with the department for eight years. She works at the Piedmont Research Station outside Salisbury.

The department’s 18 research stations across the state are a cooperative operation with N.C. State University. The stations provide real-world field, greenhouse and barn space for researchers to explore and advance North Carolina agriculture. Some research may work to improve existing North Carolina crops (e.g., by increasing yields or expanding disease resistance), while other research may explore new agricultural opportunities to expand revenue streams for the state’s farmers and agribusiness. As mentioned on the department’s webpage for Research Stations, “Each facility has unique climate and soil conditions, giving researchers a living laboratory in which to investigate a variety of regional crops, forestry concerns, livestock, poultry, and aquaculture. The Division supports these studies by providing land, water, equipment, buildings, and staff who work around the clock to help build a stronger foundation for the future of agriculture.”

Wetmore’s work is just one example of the variety of research that is spread across the state. She is also an example of the diverse workforce at the research stations and the department in general.

Watch this video for the conversation about her job and/or read the transcript below.

Commissioner Troxler:
I’m Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler, and I have with me today, Kira Wetmore.
She is a dairy unit manager with our Piedmont Research Station.
Kira, how long have you been working for us?

Kira:
I’ve been working for the department for eight years in May.

Commissioner Troxler:
Eight years. And I hope you enjoyed every day of it.

Kira:
Of course, every day.

Commissioner Troxler:
How does the work that you do at the research station impact farmers?

Kira:
So we do a lot of different research.
Right now we’re doing some research on Angus Holstein cross calves, which is really important in the industry right now, hoping that we can tell the industry, hey, we should feed calves this way or what worked and what didn’t work on how to grow dairy cross calves to be competitive in the meat market. (For a more about this research in its earliest stages, read a previous blog here:  Research looks at whether surrogacy could lead to dairy cows producing beef offspring)

Commissioner Troxler:
How in the world did you get involved in dairy work?

Kira:
So, I actually grew up on a grain farm in northwest Ohio, and my grandfather had a dairy farm in Indiana, and my mom was big in us doing 4-H. And she said, what do you want to do? You want to show pigs like your brother? And I said no. So she’s like, well, I think we could probably get one of granddad’s heifers that’s left over. You want to show a dairy animal? And I said yes. And so I fell in love with a little brown cow, and I’ve been on a dairy farm ever since.
My dad asked me, he said, well, if you want to be in the dairy industry, you need a job in the dairy industry, and so, I started my first job on a dairy farm at 15, and I’ve been on eight different dairies since.

Commissioner Troxler:
How in the world did you get to North Carolina?

Kira:
So we actually, my husband and I went to a Jersey conference together, and we met there in the summer, and we reconnected about three years later and started dating. And I told him, I said, If I’m going to move to North Carolina, I’m not moving for a boyfriend. I want a, you better propose, or I needed a job. So I applied for the dairy job at the research station.

Commissioner Troxler:
That is amazing, and we sure are happy that it happened that way.
Walk me through a typical day in your work.

Kira:
So our mornings kind of start off, we hope normal. We get to the farm, and we get ready to milk cows and milk cows, feed cows, take care of the babies, get any new babies up, and then our afternoons kind of vary. We do some vaccinations, leaning, moving animals around. Just daily care of… We have about 400 animals that we care for every day. So there’s usually something that needs taken care of, of those 400 animals.

Commissioner Troxler:
What is your favorite part of the job?

Kira:
I really, I really enjoyed animal health. I like solving problems. So my favorite part of the job is like, if we have a cow that has something going on, I like to look at her. I like to figure out, okay, this is what’s bothering her. This is how I can fix that problem for her. And so I really enjoy the animal health side of things and taking care of the animals.

Commissioner Troxler:
I understand your son Tate has a special connection to the research station.
Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Kira:
So my son Tate was born at 24 weeks, and I had gone to the office to talk to my supervisor about some paperwork, and I didn’t feel very well. And so I called the girls I worked with and said, would you bring me an ice pack? I think I just need to sit down for a minute. And about 30 minutes later, I was laboring in the office at the research station. So, it’s been really… Everyone really had my back because we spent four months in the NICU with my son. I couldn’t have imagined being anywhere else because my research station employees are my best friends. And they supported me through all of that, even though it was a lot of doctor visits for a while. It was me going to the NICU after work every day to see my son. So he, he tried to come at the research station, so I’m glad he didn’t. I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else because, my best friends work at the research station, and I’ve been so lucky that we have a lot of women that work at the dairy, and we’re all in our mid-30s.
But it’s just a big family, and we all take care of each other, and we try to help. All the units try to work together and help each other out when we need it. So I really enjoy the people I work with every day, and I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else.

Commissioner Troxler:
We certainly do appreciate you doing what you do every day.
So thank you. And, we will see you soon at the research station.

Kira:
Yep, I’ll be there.