The closest most people have been to visiting a dairy farm is shopping for their favorite milk, cheese, yogurt or ice cream. After all, farmers and ranchers who grow food only make up about 2% of the U.S. population. But no matter how disconnected you might feel, the truth is that most of us live within 100 miles or less from a local dairy farm.
Regardless of our background, we can all relate to wanting to feel comfortable with where our food comes from. Luckily for dairy lovers, farmers are passionate about caring for their cows and leaving the land better than they inherited it – which means delivering fresh and delicious dairy foods for us to all enjoy! And when they aren’t busy doing all of this, dairy farmers across the country volunteer in their community and share the story of how food gets from their farm to your table.
From schools to community groups, farmers enjoy showing people firsthand what happens on a dairy farm by hosting farm tours. But what they enjoy most is answering questions and busting the myths and misconceptions that people have. Check out some of the frequently asked questions farmers get on dairy farm tours:
How much does a cow eat and drink?
The average dairy cow drinks between 25 to 30 gallons of water and eats about 100 pounds of feed, hay and silage every day. But nothing goes to waste on a dairy farm. Farmers recycle cows’ manure as fertilizer for crops and reuse water multiple times to cool the milk, wash the barn and irrigate crops.
How long are cows milked?
Most dairies milk cows two or three times per day, which generally takes less than 10 minutes. Cows get to spend the rest of their day napping on water or sand beds, eating a well-balanced diet and chewing their cud.
Does it hurt cows to be milked?
No, it’s actually a relief for cows to empty their udders. Milking machines provide a light suction that pulsates to gently allow the milk to release. Cows often line up on their own to have their udders cleaned and milked! Learn about the different types of milking parlors.
When do cows have calves?
When a heifer (girl calf) grows up and is about two years old, she has a calf and produces milk for 10 months. Then she is dry (does not produce milk) for two months and rests prior to having another calf.
Why are calves kept in individual pens?
Keeping calves safe and healthy is top priority for dairy farmers as they are the future of their herd. Calves are kept in individual pens until they are strong enough to be moved to group pens with other calves. Dairy farmers also do this to provide individualized care to each calf, like bottle feeding them several times a day, monitoring for weight gain and checking for any signs of illness.
Does chocolate milk come from brown cows?
Chocolate milk – or any flavored milk – is white cow’s milk with added flavoring. So, chocolate milk can come from any breed of dairy cow!
If you haven’t had the chance to visit a dairy farm on a tour, you can still learn more about the farm families near you. Meet the families >