Nebraska September 01, 2016
This Crazy Experiment in Nebraska Took Our Dairy Supply Underground
You already know about the
fallout shelter Roberts Dairy built underground in Omaha. But did you know that they built a second concrete shelter designed to protect cows in the event of a nuclear attack?
The shelter was a unique experiment in protecting the food supply using an underground fallout shelter. Milk is particularly susceptible to radiation, so Roberts Dairy - along with the Office of Civil Defense - set out to find if cows could be kept underground and still produce milk if the unthinkable should happen.
The experiment put 35 cows, one bull, and two student volunteers in the shelter beneath the Roberts dairy in Elkhorn. The 6,000-square-foot space was large enough to hold more than 200 dairy cows, a few bulls, and their human attendants. The image above shows the shelter's ventilators protruding from the ground.
Feed for the cattle and water for the humans was kept in special protected containers that would keep them safe from radiation. Fans pumped smelly air out and clean, filtered air in.
The experiment lasted for two weeks, during which time the students cared for the cows and performed routine chores.
The bunker was stocked with enough supplies to keep the human occupants fed for two weeks, though the students grew tired of the monotonous diet.
One of the problems the students encountered was keeping track of day and night. Underground with no indication of the time, it was easy to get disoriented and lose track of the days, though they said that the chores helped alleviate their boredom somewhat.
An auxiliary generator provided electricity for the shelter and would power it and all of the farm buildings in the event that a nuclear attack interrupted the power supply.
When the two weeks were up, the president of Roberts Dairy greeted the students at the door of the shelter with a pitcher of cold milk and some sweet rolls. Both of the students agreed that it would be a while before they would spend any more time with cows.
While the experiment proved that dairy cows could still produce while living underground, the shelter was thankfully never needed. The idea of a whole herd of cows living underground may seem silly now, but under the threat of nuclear war it was an excellent idea to keep the food supply up and running.