Dairy cow co-stars in commencement photo shoot

Kyle Brown Columbian Missourian
Monday, December 17, 2018
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AP PHOTO
Senior animal sciences major Massimo Montalbano, and Amelia, a three-year-old cow, walk on the campus of the University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo. on Dec. 13. Montalbano brought the towering dairy cow to join his commencement photo shoot. Montalbano worked with cattle throughout his undergraduate studies with the university’s Foremost Dairy Research Center.

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — People hoofing it around MU’s Francis Quadrangle on the afternoon of Dec. 13 were in for a shock.

MU animal sciences major Massimo Montalbano was putting his own twist on the graduation photo shoot — by toting a towering 3-year-old dairy cow named Amelia.

One passerby remarked at how clean Amelia looked.

“I just gave her a bath this morning,” Montalbano responded.

Montalbano worked extensively with the Holstein at MU’s Foremost Dairy Research Center over the course of his undergraduate career.

After he graduates, he’ll have a job working at Grasslands Dairy near Monett. So naturally, he said he insisted on having Amelia in his graduation photos.

“I’ve worked at the dairy basically all throughout college,” Montalbano said. “I bonded with all of (the cows), and she’s one of my favorites.”

Monica Witzke — an animal sciences graduate student and Montalbano’s girlfriend — took the photos. She also helped him load Amelia on a horse trailer at Foremost to get her to campus.

They drove it into town and parked it near the quad on campus.

Everything was cleared with MU first, of course.

Montalbano brought the idea to Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies Jim Spain, who is also a member of the animal sciences faculty.

Spain forwarded him to the MU Operations Department, which ultimately said yes.

Spain said it’s not the first time a student has asked him to bring a cow on campus.

“We’ve had a number of students over the years who have had an interest in dairy who have had photos taken with cows on the quad,” Spain said.

Even though the situation was nothing new to Spain, it was quite out of the ordinary to unsuspecting passersby.

“Well, I was surprised because it is not an everyday occurrence, but overall I welcome it,” said Astrid Villamil, an MU administrator who walked past the scene. “Surprises of this kind are welcomed.”

MU senior Shay Lawson also witnessed the photo shoot. Lawson is from St. Louis, and he said he’s not accustomed to seeing livestock up close and personal.

“I’ve never seen a cow that big,” he said. “I had no idea cows were that tall.”

Lawson, like Villamil, said he was open to the idea of bringing animals on campus as photo-shoot props. He even proposed that someone take it a step or two further: “We need to upgrade. More exotic animals. Someone should get a tiger.”

Docile dairy cows will have to do for now.

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