As some of of you have read, I was blessed to have a tour of Hudsonville Creamery. (And if you haven’t read it, you should!) They also took us on a tour of Pyle Farm, which supplies their milk and cream. I admit that I’m a city girl through and through. I was surprised what I learned about cows, a dairy farm, and the farming industry.
1. A dairy cow must get pregnant once a year to produce milk.
Yeah, I know, this should be obvious. I’ve been watching way too many movies and stories of sheep being born in the spring. Fun fact about about dairy cows and babies. Almost all dairy cows are artificially inseminated.
2. Fraternal twin cows do not produce milk.
If a cow has twins, and one is female and the other male, the female cow will never produce milk. Therefore, the farmer sells her. I learned this at Paulen Farms in Howard City. This family dairy farm has been around in one way or another for over 100 years. The day we visited him, we were lucky enough to see twin calves that were born the night before.
3. Cows are pretty shy animals and don’t have top teeth.
When I first talked to Andy, I asked him if I could pet the cows and if they would try to bite me. He explained cows are pretty shy creatures. They become nervous around large crowds and generally don’t come near enough to let you pet them. However if you are able to touch one, no worries. They can’t bite. They have no upper teeth with which to pierce your skin.
4. Cows only sleep 3-4 hours a day
As a person who easily needs 6-7 hours of sleep, this astounded me. I admit that life seems pretty easy for a cow on a dairy farm.
5. Cows need to keep cool to make milk.
Above 72 degrees, cows will stop eating and therefore stop producing milk. I actually learned this at the Pyle Farm. We were all amazed at how cool it was inside the barn, even on a hot summer day.
6. Michigan dairy farmers are part of one large co-op.
This is because they believe in working together as an industry instead of being in competition with
each other all the time. In this dog eat dog world, I’m amazed that each Michigan dairy farm chooses to work together as an industry. I don’t think I know of ANY other industry that does this. Michigan even has a United Dairy Industry. You can follow them on social media at @milkmeansmore to learn all sorts of facts, recipes, and learn about events.
7. Michigan ranks 6th in the entire nation for milk production
An average Michigan dairy farm cow produces over 2,000 gallons of milk a year. We’re not just huge in milk production. We’re #1 in the nation in the production of lowfat ice cream mix. Since August 19th is National Soft Ice Cream Day, we all have a lot to celebrate in this state!
8. Milk containers with the first two digit code of “26” indicates it is Michigan milk.
We often see notifications on Facebook, Twitter, and other places about making sure to check your produce for codes that specify it is organic. Who knew that dairy uses a similar coding system!
|Image taken from milkmeansmore.com
9. While it may be controversial, raw milk is delicious
I know there are pros and cons to raw milk. When I was offered some raw milk to try, I will admit that I was nervous and skeptical. But in all honesty, it was delicious and full of creamy flavor. And just to state explicitly, I was not sold any raw milk. I was just given a glass to try.
10. A dairy farm can be a dangerous place to work.
I’ve known that Andy has worked long hours at his dairy farm for a long time. Because farm work is never “done,” he often misses family functions. There are many times that farmers pay a much larger sacrifice than of just their time and talents. Andy told me of a local farmer that died within the past few years because he was killed by a bull.
An article in Newsweek in 2014 talked about the high stress and suicide levels in farming.I say these things not to cause uproar over safety in the farming industry. I say these things because, with the growth of supermarkets, we lose the connection to the people who produce the food we eat. We disconnect from the needs and concerns of those who make it possible for us to take in nourishment every day. It makes it easy for us to lose our sense of gratitude for what they do for us.So the next time you drink a glass of milk, eat some ice cream, or sprinkle cheese on your pizza or salad, remember that there is someone working, literally, all the time to make it possible. Someone who cares for the animals and for our communities. Someone who deserves our gratitude and respect.
Do you have any farming experience? What do you wish society knew about farm work? Leave me a comment below!