A Day at the Dairy Farm

I took a tour of a dairy farm on Sunday, and I have to tell you that I have a whole new respect for the milk I pour into my tea several times a day.

The Post family has been farming for three generations. Currently, they have 400 cows, 250 of which they milk. They farm about 750 acres; 200 or so are beans and peas that they supply to a cannery nearby, and the rest is corn that feeds the cows.

While we were walking around, a baby calf was born out in the fields. We learned that the calves are sold if they’re males and kept if they’re female. I also learned that a heifer is a female cow that hasn’t had a calf. (See, you learn something new every day!)

We also learned that the farmer keeps track of every single cow, their fertility and gestation periods, how much milk they produce, what they eat in an exact recipe and everything else that keeps a cow healthy.

The cows are milked three times a day; each milking takes 4 or 5 hours. The milking is done by machine. The cows parade into the milking room, where a person hooks the machine up to the cow’s udder. They’re milked for maybe 5 minutes and when the milk is done the machine automatically releases. It’s a messy job, and someone on the farm spends 12 hours a day milking cows.

They collect about 2,000 gallons of milk a day, which is sold to the Upstate Milk cooperative. It’s turned into milk, ice cream and cultured products like cottage cheese and yogurt.

I’m not going to lie: a cow farm stinks. But I was amazed at what goes into producing milk. I never knew how much work it takes to run a dairy farm, or how much personal family life is invested in the success of that farm.

Farmers get a bad rap from PETA-nuts, are taxed into oblivion, and most the city folk would rather turn farmland into subdivisions. But the thing most Americans forget is that their food comes from somewhere, and I’d sure as heck get my milk from a local dairy farmer than from China. (As you already know, I’ve stopped using canned mandarin oranges because they’re imported from China.) We need to start giving farmers some respect, because without them we’d starve. And I mean that literally.

So the next time you go to Starbucks, remember that somewhere in America, a farmer toiled over acres of cow corn, shoveled more manure than you can imagine a cow can produce, kept track of fertility and gestation periods of hundreds of cows, and generally spent his entire life farming – so you could have a latte.


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