It’s getting towards the end of June, but it’s not too late to celebrate National Dairy Month! I was fortunate enough to attend a dairy farm tour in April that was just fascinating and amazing. The technology and care that goes into these animals to provide the safest milk supply is just phenomenal.
It is so important to know where our food comes from and that is often a discussion at our family meals. In our county and many others throughout Minnesota, we had the opportunity as a family to attend a “Breakfast on the Farm” which is held on a local dairy farm where my family and I were able to get up close and personal with dairy cows. We try to do this every year we can to make sure our kids can connect the farm to the fork, so to speak. Here is an excellent 4 minute tour you can take virtually with your family here.
And in regards to the tour I took in April, Krista Sheehan who writes for The Dairy Star, summarizes the experience for the dietitians that attended with some fascinating comments here: http://www.dairystar.com/main.asp?Search=1&ArticleID=7340&SectionID=1&SubSectionID=1&S=1
Another writer and photographer also came with us from AgriNews, you can find that here.
Here are a few highlights of my dairy farm tour:
- A few members of the Sheeknoll Dairy Farm Family. The amount of work that goes into a dairy farm is a huge commitment of time and energy and I have a huge sense of appreciation for all they do. I could sense their quiet pride in the care they take of their animals – as they would say many times throughout the tour “take care of the cows, and they will take care of us”. You can find them on Facebook here.
- Cow comfort is of the utmost priority. The immediate thing I noticed as we were touring was the lack of “mooing”. The cows were quiet! But I soon found out the reason why – quiet cows are happy cows. They only moo when they are in need of something, just like we do as humans.
- When the cows are milked, safety and cleanliness are a huge priority, which is why the udders are washed, sanitized and dried before the milking machine is put onto the cow. The cows even happily come into the milking parlor. They even have their “spots” that they prefer to go to. The milking machine actually releases suction when the milk is finished flowing; with the average cow producing 10 gallons of milk per day. All of this is actually run by a computer that can tell how much milk each cow provides, the average over the course of time and much more. I was totally impressed by the technology of the dairy operation.
- The cows are well cared for, with access to food and water whenever they want it, room to roam in the barns, even a back scratcher for that itch from occasional flies. A “total mixed ration” is fed to the cows providing the optimal nutrients for the dairy cows to provide the best care and feeding possible. These cows are so well cared for, I think us as humans could take a few notes on optimally feeding our bodies for the highest quality of life.
- The barn is called a “freestyle barn” with proper ventilation and cooling in the summer months and warmth in the winter months.
- Such care is taken throughout the farm throughout with every mechanism and technique. Every thought has a purpose which serves well as making the farm a sustainable one.
- As a dietitian and a mom, I know that milk from our dairy farmers meets the strictest of standards and is measured for safety at many points. Cleanliness and safety are the highest priority and I am assured that I am feeding my family a wholesome and nutritious product. One that we couldn’t live without!
- At the end of the day, we met the family farm dog – just the cutest little guy, I had to include his picture! I hope this blog post inspires you to get out and connect with your food.