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Dairy Statistics

Fri, Jun 4th, 2010
Posted in Agriculture

America's dairy industry is more than milk. It's jobs and economic activity for the people of our country. It's also a way of life for more than 60,000 farm families.

William Hoard, founder of Hoard's Dairyman magazine and former Wisconsin governor, referred to cows as the foster mothers of the human race because they produce most of the milk that people drink.

The first cow in America arrived in Jamestown colony in 1611. Until the 1850's, nearly every family had its own cow. The first regular shipment of milk by railroad began in 1841 and was between Orange County, New York, and New York City.

In 1856, French scientist Louis Pasteur discovered that heating liquids to high temperatures for a short time kills bacteria. This process is called pasteurization, and it protects the purity and flavors of milk. Refrigeration came into use in 1880, and the first pasteurizing machine was introduced in 1895.

Dairying has improved through the years. Today, one cow can produce the milk that it once took 10 cows to produce. Before milking machines were invented in 1894, farmers could only milk about 6 cows per hour. Today, farmers use machines to milk more than 100 cows per hour.

Contrary to popular belief, cows do not have four stomachs; they have four digestive compartments:

• The rumen holds up to 50 gallons of partially digested food. This is where cud comes from. Good bacteria in the rumen helps cows digest the food and provides them with protein.

• The reticulum is called the hardware stomach because if cows accidentally eat hardware (like a piece of fencing scrap), it will often lodge here causing no further damage.

• The omasum is sort of like a filter.

• The abomasum, which is like our stomach.

Cows drink about a bathtub full of water and eat around 40 pounds of food a day.

Cows have 32 teeth:

• Eight incisors on the bottom front

• Six molars on the top and bottom of each side

• A tough pad of skin instead of teeth on the top front

Besides the cows themselves, Minnesota's dairy farmers provide more than milk. They bring jobs and economic activity to communities across the state. Minnesota dairies contribute to the local economy by supporting local businesses and the community tax base. Without dairy farmers, local tax bases would look very different and that would affect schools, local businesses and the food supply -- it would also affect the natural landscape and wide-open spaces that farmers help provide.

In 2009, Fillmore County had 86 Grade A dairy farms. While researching this article, I asked some children who live nearby what their favorite part of living on a dairy farm was. Their answers were very entertaining. Sidney and Brock Taylor, Duschee Hills Dairy, like helping to take care of the calves and riding in the tractor. Travis Troendle, also from Duschee Hills Dairy, likes all of the animals on the farm. Jared likes "Everything", and Devin says "fun."

Faith Schriever of Schriever Family Farms, likes to see the cows. She and her sister, Sarah, like to sing the Barney song "I Love You," to the calves when helping to feed them.

When I asked the Wingert children, Wingert Registered Holsteins, their favorite part of living on a dairy farm, Madylan said, was "riding in the skidloader with my dad and shutting gates." Morgan likes milking the cows with Mom and Dad. Claytin likes riding in the tractor while Coltin likes scraping the freestall with his dad, and "learning to do it alone someday."

Likewise, Kayla Biel, Biel Farms, likes "everything" about living on a dairy farm, while little brother Kenny likes to "ride in the tractor." Kelsey likes to see the cows everyday, and help feed the calves and 4-H goats. Krissie likes to help her dad and grandpa in the milking parlor by pushing buttons to open and close gates. Klaudia didn't hesitate to tell me, "I like the kittens!" They all told me that little Korra, who is one year, "likes to look around at everything."

Dairy farming is an important contributor to the state's overall economy. When a dairy farm spends money locally, it creates a multiplier effect of more than two-and-a-half times the original dollar spent. Milk doesn't stay on the farm - where milk goes, more jobs are created.

• There are approximately 4,700 dairy farms in Minnesota, 99 percent of which are family owned.

• The average size of a milking herd in Minnesota is 101 cows.

• In Minnesota, the average dairy cow will produce 6.5 gallons of milk per day over the course of a typical year. That's more than 2,387 gallons a year.

• Minnesota dairy farms produce 8.364 billion gallons of milk annually.

• Minnesota milk production ranks sixth nationally; the state ranks fifth nationally in cheese production.

• Dairy is the second largest livestock sector in Minnesota at 24 percent; and farmers only receive $1.37 on a $2.49 pound of cheddar cheese.

• After milk leaves the farm, it travels by truck to a dairy plant, where people process cheese, fluid milk, ice cream, butter, yogurt, and other dairy products.

The job of the dairy farmer holds many benefits, but at the same time requires considerable business skill. They must coordinate and manage the upkeep of their dairy herd - feed, veterinary medical, water and space. So, next time you are at the grocery store and grab that gallon of milk, or that block of cheese, be sure to think about where it came from and how hard our farmers work to provide us with nutritious dairy products.

Mark your calendars for "Dairy Night on the Farm" on June 26, at the Bob and Craig Schmidt Farm, near Wykoff.

Sources: Minnesota Department of Agriculture 2009 Statistics, Dairy Today, Feb. 2010.

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