Delicious Dairy from Farm to Fridge
The dairy industry is important to Kentucky. We have about 850 dairy farms and 80,000 cows in the bluegrass state. Together, they produce 130 million gallons of milk per year! Dairy cows are a special type of cattle that produce more milk than the cattle raised for beef only. There are six kinds of dairy cows in the U.S: Guernsey, Jersey, Brown Swiss, Holstein, Ayrshire and Milking Shorthorn. They are all shapes, sizes, and colors, but each breed is prized for its ability to produce wonderful milk.
Mooving to the Milk Parlor
Did you know that a cow must have a calf before she will produce milk? At about two to three years of age, a heifer will have its first calf. After that, she can become a milking cow. Most dairy cows will have a calf every year. She milks for about 10 months, then takes a two month break before she has her next calf.
A cow must be healthy and well-fed to make milk. A cow will eat grass, hay, corn, silage, soybeans, and drink lots of water. In fact, a cow producing milk will eat about 100 pounds of food in one day. Animal nutritionists have a special role ensuring cows get all the vitamins and nutrients they need to be happy and healthy.
Once a cow begins to produce milk, she must be milked at least twice a day, every day - even on holidays! First, she walks from her house to the milking parlor. Workers clean the cow’s udders and check to make sure she is free from illness. Then, staff attach her udders to the milking machine, which gently massages the teat to release the milk. It’s important that humans never touch the milk, so dairies use automated milkers. The milk then moves to a storage tank to cool.
From the Farm to You
An insulated milk truck comes every 1-2 days to take the milk for processing and bottling - this helps to make sure the milk you get is very fresh. The truck delivers milk to the dairy plant where it is tested and pasteurized to make sure it does not contain anything that might make us sick. Most milk is also homogenized so the cream in the milk does not separate. After the milk is bottled or placed in cartons, it is shipped to stores, schools, and restaurants.
Dairy’s Plentiful Benefits
Milk is a nutrient powerhouse. It contains calcium, vitamin D and phosphorus which play an important role in keeping bones and teeth strong. Riboflavin helps turn food into energy and plays a vital role in the development of the central nervous system. Vitamin B12 helps build red blood cells and maintain central nervous system health. And potassium helps keep fluids in your body balanced and help keep blood pressure normal. Milk also contains Vitamin A, which is important for good vision, clear skin, and a healthy immune system, and niacin, which helps the body turn nutrients into energy. Last but not least, milk contains protein and carbohydrates which work hand in hand to build and repair muscle and provide energy.
Cheese, yogurt, ice cream and cottage cheese also come from cow’s milk. Dairy farmers take great care to make sure their cows are happy, healthy and well-fed so that we can enjoy fresh and delicious milk.
Glossary of Terms:
- Bovine - The scientific term for cattle, male or female, young or old. Most people just call these animals “cows.”
- Cow - A female bovine who has had at least one baby in its lifetime.
- Heifer - A female bovine who has not had any babies in its lifetime.
- Calf - A baby bovine.
- Silage - Food that has been stored for winter but not dried first. Examples are corn silage or hay silage.
- Homogenize - A process that mixes milk, so that milk fat does not rise to the top when stored
- Pasteurize - A process that heats and quickly cools milk in order to kill any potential harmful bacteria infection.
- Milking Parlor - The area where cows are milked.
- Udder/Teat - The part of the cow where milk comes from.
Videos about Kentucky Dairy Farming