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Dairy Sustainability Made Me Rethink Being Vegan

By Kayla Thomas – Utah State University Dietetics Student

My decision to become vegan was not taken lightly. It was after much soul searching and research that over two years ago I chose to vote with my fork for sustainable agriculture, health, and animal care. I am currently a dietetics student, finishing up school and preparing to take the dietetics exam. While I don’t preach veganism to my patients/clients, for the last two years, I have personally followed this lifestyle and made those choices.

But late last year, one of my internship rotations was with the Dairy Council of Utah/Nevada. While all of my rotations were wonderful, the Dairy Council was by far the most fun and creative. It was also the most influential to me personally. During my two-week stint, I had the opportunity to visit two dairy farms. Watching the process of milk production on a dairy farm was an eye-opening opportunity. I have seen many horror films depicting animal cruelty in ‘factory farms’ across the nation, and before my initial farm visit, I thought that the tour was set up well in advance in order to prepare the farmers to be on their best behavior and to sanitize the environment from their normal practices. When I left the farm that day, I was confused. This large dairy was a family run business, it didn’t seem like a “factory” at all. I was stunned by how easy-going the workers were and even more amazed as I watched the cows calmly go through their daily routine. This occasion of showing their livelihood to the public did not seem staged in the slightest. The second farm tour confirmed my suspicions. Dairy farming is a family affair.

Bateman Brothers

I visited Bateman’s Mosida Farms, a 7,000 cow dairy in Utah owned and operated by 4 brothers and their father

Sustainable agriculture practices are deeply important to me and one of the primary reasons I chose a vegan lifestyle. In a lot of ways I wish we could go back to the days of small farms where the farm to fork principal works in everyone’s backyard, but in today’s world of 7 billion people (that is quickly growing!) we have a food security issue and need modern agriculture in order to produce enough food. Therefore, we must move forward with larger farms, and help fine-tune their processes to create a greener environment. I was under the impression that animal protein production was not very sustainable, but I had the opportunity to learn first-hand how the dairy industry is a leader in this area. Here are some of the things I learned:

  • Milk is a local food. From the time the cows’ milk is stored in a cooling tank, it is typically just 48-72 hours before it is on a shelf at your LOCAL grocery store.
  • Any type of energy waste is money lost on the farm and to the producers of dairy, every dollar counts to these families. Farming is a tough industry, one that is barely breaking even every year. Efficiency is essential and good business for dairy farmers. I witnessed farms using the natural heat from the milk to heat the milk parlor in order to create a warmer, comfortable environment for the cows during the cold winter months, and I heard about how water is recycled and used multiple times on the dairy for cleaning, cooling, irrigation…
  • When people would ask me why I was vegan, I would sometimes say I would rather feed humans than animals. By not consuming animal products, I felt I was taking a stand on world hunger. I worried about a large portion of our grain crop going to feed animals instead of humans. But on my tour I had the chance to learn more about what cows actually eat. Much of what goes into a cow’s 100lb per day food ration are actually byproducts that humans cannot ingest. Cows, due to their powerful stomachs, are able to produce nutrient dense milk by eating crops that would otherwise be useless to humans. This realization was my tipping point…thoughts of milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream started flooding my mind.

Honor the Harvest

Animal care was another important motive for my choice to be vegan. While attending different dairy farms in Utah I was impressed at the still, quietness of the cows and calves. Could they possibly be content or even happy with their lives? If not, I was fooled.

After my rotation with the Dairy Council, my mind was consumed with thoughts making a big lifestyle change for me and becoming vegetarian.  At first, the thought of this transition frightened me. I do not view myself as an easily persuaded person nor one who makes rash decisions. Being vegan was a big part of my life. It ade me feel connected to nature, animals, and the Earth in a more personal way, but after viewing the amount of hard work and dedication that goes into dairy farming with clean, healthy practices and love for the animals, I had a new perspective that fundamentally challenged some of my core beliefs. No one likes to be told they were wrong, but by being open-minded I was able to learn and even change my dietary habits.

So about 3 weeks after my time with the Dairy Council and many hours of health related research on dairy, I bought my first yogurt in almost two years!

Happy Earth Day!

Sustainable Dairy Portrait

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How Do Farmers Treat Their Animals?

A couple weeks ago, I decided to go home for the weekend.  After a long four-hour drive, I waltzed into my farm’s office, happy to see my parents and siblings.  As I was giving my mom a bear hug, I looked down on the desk and saw a pink eartag.  Number 777. Otherwise known as DD, this was the tag to one of my favorite cows – a good milk producer, a beautiful cow, and mother to several of my herd.  I broke down crying.  You see, an eartag on the office desk means that that cow has died.  It’s more often that I see a yellow tag – the color of my parents’ herd; However, as my herd has aged, this is becoming more common for me too.

DD's Eartag

DD’s Eartag

Tears streaming down my 22-year-old face, I asked my mom what had happened to DD.  Looking just as sad I felt, my mom said that she thought it was probably bloody gut.  This is the kind of ailment that sneaks up on a cow and takes her down really quickly, no matter how closely you watch your herd.  Not knowing that DD was even sick, she hadn’t been put into our hospital pen for treatment.  She didn’t show any symptoms, and then it was too late.

I share this story because recently, I’ve heard several accounts claiming that farmers don’t care about their animals.  This not only saddens me, but quite frankly I also find myself offended when someone claims to know how my family treats and cares about the animals on our farm.

Because this is how much our animals mean to us:

I well up with tears and feel a deep sense of loss every time one of my cows dies.  My dad can’t stand to put cows down, so he has to call someone else every time we have a cow who can’t be cured of what ails her.  This isn’t because he can’t physically do it, but because the cows under his care mean so much to him that ending one’s life, even if it is the humane thing to do, is more than he can bear.  My mother has spent countless hours on her stomach, in the cold and muck, helping a cow who is having difficulty giving birth to ensure that both mother and baby come through safely.  One time my brothers lost it when they saw a couple truck drivers mistreating our cows as they got onto a truck to be beefed.  Yes, the cows milking years were over and they were leaving our care, but it didn’t matter…our cows, from their first breath to their last, are treated with dignity and kindness.  Anyone who acts otherwise is immediately fired, or, if not in my family’s employ, but on our farm (such as those truck drivers) are told politely not ever to come back.

These cows are our livelihood, and if not cared for properly, my family’s business will suffer.  But for us, and for many of our agricultural friends, we care for animals not because we have to but because we love them – it’s our chosen lifestyle.  From our first steps in the barn, we’ve known…animal husbandry is in our blood.  We want to ensure that the animals in our care have the best, because in turn these animals take care of our customers…you.  We want the best for you too.  So please, next time that you hear someone say we farmers don’t care, send them my way.   It’s possible they’ll encounter me giving my cow one last hug before it’s time to put her down because she has served my family well, but now it’s time for her to go.  As they watch my tears, perhaps they’ll reconsider.

My cows - Skye and DD

My cows – Skye and DD

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The Great American Milk Drive

Hunger in America – What’s it Look Like?

1 in 6 Americans, including more than 12 million families, face hunger, and many rely on food banks for nutrition assistance. While Americans are generous with food donations and national feeding programs serve 37 million people, food bank clients aren’t always getting what they need. Food bank directors say milk is one of the products their clients request most often, but they cannot always meet demand because milk is perishable and difficult to donate.

Hunger in America

What Can We Do About Hunger?

Today, April 2, 2014, America’s dairy industry is coming together to help solve this problem and get milk to those who need it most.  Dairy farmers (through the National Dairy Council) and milk companies (through the Milk Processors Education Program – MilkPEP) are partnering with Feeding America to launch The Great American Milk Drive. 

You can be part of the action. Tune in today MilkLife.com/Give at 9:45am MT to watch the campaign’s live launch.

Stay tuned for more about what’s going on locally in Utah and Nevada as we form partnerships with our local Feeding America food banks to bring the Great American Milk Drive to our local market.

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A ‘Lax’ Story About Chocolate Milk

Guest Post by, Beth Coffey-Curle

If you would have told me that cartoons of chocolate milk could bond a team, create a cheer, and put a positive spin on a lost game, I would probably have smiled and moved on. It did, it does, and the energy created by the efforts on behalf of our local lacrosse high school teams by the Northern Nevada Dairymen, the Nevada Dairy Council and Model Dairy is amazing.

Last summer, I had the opportunity to see first hand how the Northern Nevada Dairymen invest in our local community, especially if the activity was centered around children. I approached them during the winter to see if there was any willingness to associate with my children’s high school lacrosse teams. Lacrosse is the fastest growing sport across the country, and it is taking off in leaps and bounds here locally in Northern NV. Still recognized as a club activity and not a varsity sport, the parents raise finances to fund all of the high school club’s expenses including field rental, uniforms, game referees, and game balls. The Northern Nevada Dairymen responded to our request with an offer to provide post-game chocolate milk for the athletes. My initial reaction was “what a nice treat,” but a bit of education later, I learned that chocolate milk is the new “recovery” drink. Put down the sugary energy drinks, welcome back milk!

Chocolate Milk Recovery

Recovering with Chocolate Milk post Lacrosse

If picking up 350 cartoons of milk to cover the first four home games – all played over three days time – was comical, finding refrigeration space for it all was down right hilarious. Some went into coolers with ice, others shared space in my husband’s beer frige and still more was stacked on top of kegs in the beer cooler. (My husband is a zymologist!) I headed to the first game with 150 cartoons of TruMoo split between two rolling ice chests. The head boys’ coach knew what was stashed in the coolers but nothing was said to the boys. When I was asked if I had enough milk to cover both teams, I replied “I have milk for Africa. Model Dairy has me covered!”

In a very physical game, the Galena Boys team beat the North Tahoe Boys team 12-2. At the end of the game, I opened each cooler that was positioned behind the team’s bench and offered the boys a drink. Their faces lit up, and I got out of the way. The boys were grabbing and tossing cartoons to each other like baseballs. The smiles on their faces were perfect. One older boy, who I recognized as the goalie from last season walked up to me. He had graduated and was home from college on spring break. He asked very politely, almost shyly, if there was milk available for a team alumni. I smiled and said I was pretty sure there was milk for returning players.

I walked over the North Tahoe bench and all the boys all came over to thank me. Before they left the field, I offered one of the straggling players another cartoon. He said he’d already had had 5 them. I said “Well, it’s a long drive home, let’s make it six,” his smile would have lit a room. On their way off the field, one young Truckee player walked over to me and said “We lost today and that was bad but the chocolate milk made it all right again.”  These kids are  teenagers – each one feels the pressure to have the coolest clothes, listen to the hottest music, and have seen the latest instagram post but push all of that aside, they’re still just our kids and a simple gesture like chocolate milk can turn their day around fast.

By the third game, the boys’ head coach said, “You know Beth, there’s something to this post-game chocolate milk. They’re too young to have a beer together after the game but to watch them post-game bond over cartoons of milk is something to see.” I knew the Northern Nevada Dairymen and Model Dairy had hit one out of the park when in a post game team huddle, the team chant was led off with “TruMoo! TruMoo! TruMoo!”

Blog post author Beth Coffey-Curle is a mom in Northern Nevada, she says, “there is a new success story for every game!”

For the past 3 years, The Northern Nevada Dairymen have partnered with the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association to name chocolate milk the official beverage of high school sports.

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Celebrate National Nutrition Month for Cows!

March is National Nutrition Month – a time when we traditionally think about healthy eating for humans and recognize registered dietitian nutritionists – Happy RDN Day – March 12, 2014! But what about animals? The study of animal nutrition has evolved considerably, and when it comes to dairy cows, their diet has a significant impact on the animal’s health and the quality of her milk. Matt Leak is a dairy nutritionist in northern Utah who works with dairymen across the country to formulate a balanced nutrition ration for their dairy herds.

It’s not something we think about everyday – a cow needs a nutritionist!? But dairy cows have the important job of producing high quality milk on a daily basis. With every dairy herd he works with, Matt is looking to keep the cows as healthy as possible. He says, “Healthy cows, and well-fed cows not only produce more, and higher quality milk, but they have an easier time reproducing.” His goal is to help the dairymen he works with maintain the health of their herd while helping them produce the highest quality end-product possible.

So what does it take to develop a balanced diet for a cow?

Step 1: Determine what’s available

stored feed

Feed stored in these bags will remain fresh for over a year.

Matt works with many of his clients weekly to determine what the best mix of feedstuffs (in dairy-speak, a cow’s food is referred to as “feed or feedstuffs”) will be for that particular dairy. He starts by pulling samples of what the farmer has available – these can be stored crops that the farmer has grown and harvested or crops that the farmer has purchased. Matt sends the samples to a lab for analysis. He is looking for the total energy content of the feed as well as its specific protein & mineral content.

Step 2: Identify appropriate supplementals

Given what the farmer has on hand, Matt then considers what other feeds should be added to create a balanced ration for the cow. He considers things like…

  • What breed of cows does the farmer have (Holsteins, Jerseys or another breed)? Factoring in the breed will help Matt determine the type and amount of feed to give.
  • What ingredients are available at the best price? Given time of year and location, crop availability changes. He is looking for the right balance of protein, carbohydrate, and fat at a price that makes sense for the farmer. (Read more about what a cow eats)
  • What minerals should be added to help balance the ration?

Step 3: Determine the amount.

Once the feed types and balance has been established (the basic recipe), Matt has to determine portion size and proper ratios, and this can vary considerably based on the life stage of the cow. On any given dairy, a farmer will be tweaking the basic recipe and mixing up at least 5 or 6 different rations. (This is a bit like making 5-6 different meals for your family). Here is a general breakdown of what those different meals look like and who is eating them.

mixing feed

Farmers measure feedstuffs and mix each ration in a feed wagon

  • 1st time moms – these younger cows are still growing and learning, so the protein in their diet has to be a bit higher than veteran milk cows.
  • “Far Off Cows” refer to cows within 2 months of having a calf. These animals are are no longer being milked, and they are given a special diet, which is then tweaked just before she gives birth
  • “Close-Up Cows” are cows within 3 weeks of giving birth. At this point the cow’s diet is tweaked again to help boost her immune system and transition her to the type of food she will be getting when she rejoins the milk herd.
  • “Fresh Cows” have just given birth, their energy demands are extremely high, and they are also transitioning back to the milk herd
  • “High Cows” are peaking in milk production and their needs are sightly different than the others.
  • “Mid-Lactation” energy demands are not quite as high as “high cows” and these cows are transitioning to giving birth.
  • Young calves and heifers (young cows before they have calved) have different needs still…

Matt knows that he has the recipe just right when… 

  • The cows’ milk is full of great nutrients – protein & butterfat
  • The cows look and act healthy. (Dairy nutritionists routinely give cows a body condition score to assess weight and physical appearance, which depends heavily on a balanced diet).
  • The poop looks good. Just like humans, your gut will tell you when something isn’t quite right. Proper consistency and color help nutritionists identify a proper nutrient balance.

Dairy nutrition is a science and an art. Proper training, degree programs, certifications, and lots of field experience help professionals hone their ability to feed cows with care and precision. Matt works closely with dairymen, veterinarians, feed companies, and mineral distributers to ensure the best possible nutrition for the herds he serves.

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Home (Farm) Improvements

Our New Commodity Shed

by Guest Blogger – Jennifer Olsen

New Commodity Shed

The New Commodity Shed at Sage Hill Dairy

Our family purchased Sage Hill Dairy in the Fall of 2006. This dairy and its cows are our life, our livelihood and our future, so despite a tough economy over the past 8 years, making improvements has been an integral part of our operation.

So…over the past several years we have been busy! Here are a few things we have been working on:

We have updated how our cows eat. When we bought the dairy, the cows ate their feed off the ground and now they eat off concrete, a clean and consistent way for them to munch away.  We added canopies to the corrals so that now all of the cows have shade to help keep them cooler during the hot summer months and dry when it is raining or snowing. We have made some improvements to the milk barn, and our latest improvement has been the construction of a new commodity shed. Our old one was working great but we were running out of space and a giant wind storm had blown off the roof, so instead of rebuilding, we decided to construct a new one.

A commodity shed is basically a storage area for our feed sources, such as rolled corn, cottonseed, almond hulls etc. It is important to properly store the feed sources to ensure the best nutritional quality, which is essential to each cow’s health and her milk production. We work with a cow nutritionist to mix these various feeds into a balanced ration and mix feed from each portion of the shed in a large feed wagon. We then distribute to the cows.

Commodity Shed

Loading the Feed Wagon

My husband and brother-in-law continue to make great decisions by simply investing in their COWS – our livelihood and our future.

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What is a Factory Farm?

A Farmer’s perspective by Katharine Nye: Utah State University Dairy Science & Agricultural Leadership Student. 

Factory farms.  Just those two little words elicit such strong emotions in us, and depending on your perspective, those emotions might be a little bit different.  For some, it might evoke images of confined animals or automated milking machines being attached to cows.  For me, those words are a call to action – a call to share knowledge, perspective, and experience, to talk with people about what life is really like in large-production agriculture.  You see, I am a 5th generation dairy farmer, and I grew up on a 3,000 cow dairy farm.  I’ve been told that my family runs a factory farm, that with such large numbers of cows, it’s impossible to be a family farm.  Did I mention, I’m the 5th generation? Yes, we’ve grown quite a bit since my great-great grandfather started out in a small barn in New England with 4 Guernsey cows.  Growing our herd has meant that more of my family can stay on the farm – often larger operations can support the livelihood of more family members. It has also allowed us to take advantage of advancements in farm technology, monitoring devices, milking equipment, and barn design to improved cow health and longevity as well as our farm’s sustainability.

Katharine Nye

Katharine Nye

According to the National Agriculture Statistics Service, more than 98% of United States farms are family owned. Corporation-owned farms make up less than two percent of the farming landscape in our country.  Just because a farm is big, doesn’t mean that the people who run it don’t care.  In fact, it’s in our very best interest to make sure that the animals in our charge are treated like kings, because unhappy animals don’t produce well.  A cow who is sick can’t make milk.  If my cows were cramped and not fed very well, they wouldn’t make milk, and my family’s livelihood would go down the drain.

But it’s not just about the money.  We genuinely care for our cows.  We like the lifestyle of dairy farming, and we find joy from having happy, healthy cows.  Cows are fun, and we enjoy being around them.  My cows have more people taking care of them than I do.  They have a nutritionist, a hoof care specialist (yes, our cows get pedicures!) two veterinarians, and a team of 6 people to make sure their corrals are clean, dry and fluffy every single day.  Then there’s my family and our employees.  We ensure that the cows are fed a balanced ration twice per day, that they are milked with care, and that they are monitored daily to make sure that no one is sick. In our pregnancy pen, the cows are checked on every half hour to ensure that no new mamas are having problems.  If our cows do get sick, they go to our hospital barn, where they can rest and recover before rejoining the main herd.

Mountain View Dairy

Mountain View Dairy

It takes a lot of people and a lot of coordination to care for 3,000 cows. Each and every single person on my dairy wants to be there.  You have to want to, because the patience and time isn’t always easy to give.  But we do, because we care, it is what my family has wanted for 5 generations. Dairy farming is about caring for the cows and building their trust in me.  It is about creating a sustainable livelihood that is good for our cows, our family, and our community.  Most especially, it’s about making sure that you, my customer, has the safest and tastiest milk that we can possibly provide.

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My Experience on the Farm

by Dawn Reed – Utah State Dietetics Student

I recently had the chance to visit the Wisers on the Circle B Dairy in Lewiston, UT and wanted to share my experience…

The Wiser Family - 3 generations on Circle B Dairy

The Wiser Family – 3 generations on Circle B Dairy

This was a great opportunity that let me see the everyday happenings of a dairy farm. I grew up in Idaho and always lived within a mile of some dairy or another, but I’d never been too familiar with how they were actually run. Going to the Circle B Dairy gave me some insight as I was shown the milking parlor and got to see the process from start to finish with some of their cows. I was amazed when I was told that they generally produce 6-8 gallons of milk every day. Brad then discussed with me the daily routine on a dairy farm. To me, the job of a dairy farmer is the definition of  commitment and hard work. There are so many aspects of the job including animal care, development of feed rations, milking the cows, upkeep of the farm, growing crops (seasonally), managing finances, and not getting a single day off all year. I’m so grateful for dairy farmers who are committed to providing the rest of us with quality dairy products through their hard work.

Cody Wiser feeding calves

Cody Wiser feeding calves

Brad continued the tour and taught me about the lifecycle of a dairy cow, what the cows are fed, and how they are cared for. I never realized there was so much science involved in dairy farming! We then walked around the farm, and I got to see where the cows bed down, look at what’s in the food they actually eat, and my personal favorite, got to play with the calves for a few minutes. I thoroughly enjoyed my tour of the Circle B Dairy and felt like I learned so much from this experience. It was a great chance for me to see what really happens on a dairy and to be reminded of where my milk comes from. It strengthened my appreciation for dairy farmers everywhere and made me appreciate all the hard work that goes into a gallon of milk, a block of cheese, butter, yogurt, etc. Thank you to Brad and Cody for taking the time to show me around!

Brad and Cody Wiser

Brad and Cody Wiser

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My Year as a Utah Dairy Ambassador

This Saturday, January 11, we get ready to name our 2014 Utah Dairy Ambassadors. As she prepares to pass the torch, Lacey Papageorge, one of our 2013 Ambassadors shares her experiences this past year.

By Guest Blogger and Dairy Ambassador Lacey Papageorge

I was born and raised on a dairy farm and as a little girl, I always watched the dairy princesses at various events my family attended.  I made up my mind way back in elementary school and I had a dream, a goal to become one of those princesses.  Since then, the title has changed, but at 18 I was selected as the Weber County Dairy Ambassador.  At 19, my ultimate dream was realized when after interviews and demonstrations, the 2013 Utah Dairy Ambassadors were announced, and I was one of them.  I was ecstatic when I realized I was about to live my childhood dream.

My first event was in St. George Utah, and I was very excited to attend the Utah Dairy Convention.  This is when I really got to know Hadley, my co-ambassador, and we became best friends.  This was a great first event – we helped set things up and had the opportunity to meet dairy farm families from around Utah.  We had a lot of fun, and the keynote speaker was Alex Smith, so we were able to meet him!  The last night of the convention they had a hypnotist at dinner, and we willingly volunteered to be hypnotized.  I don’t remember much of this, but from what I have been told it was very funny to watch.

Alex Smith at Utah Dairy Convention

State Dairy Ambassadors meet Alex Smith

My favorite part of this year has been teaching elementary school students and their parents and teachers about dairy products and cows.  Teaching has allowed me to share my passion for the dairy industry with over 3,000 people in Weber, Utah, Salt Lake, and Cache Counties.  Events I taught at included Farm Field Day events when students go on field trips to a farm and visit various booths to learn about different parts of agriculture.  Of course I taught about dairy!  I also helped lead a few school assemblies.  I enjoy the challenge of teaching. While presenting I always have to stay on my toes and be ready for questions, some of which require creative answers.  One of my favorite, commonly asked questions was “How does a mamma cow have a baby calf?” This question always required some creativity because I did not want to explain reproduction to groups of second graders.  It was also fun to learn from the students and adapt to what type of teaching they were used to.  Some classes liked to answer lots of questions and be loud while others preferred raising their hands with their answers.  Overall I thoroughly enjoyed speaking to the public about the dairy industry.

Farm Field Day

Teaching kids about dairy – farm field days

As ambassadors, we were able to help at a new event in May called “Day on the Farm.”  It was held at a dairy farm in Midway, Utah, and we had hundreds of people come out and see the farm and learn about cows.  We answered questions, helped lead farm tours, and passed out free snacks like milk, cheese sticks and ice cream.  On the farm tours we helped lead and answer questions while the owner of the farm told us about his cows, their food, and his farm.

In mid-July, we had a media tour.  Earlier in the year we did training on how to do TV and radio interviews, and this proved to be very useful.  The morning started out with a lot of fun because my mom and I were taking a calf from our farm down to the Channel 2 News Studios in Salt Lake City.  The calf was only a few days old, and we loaded her into the back of the truck complete with a topper for her to be safe and inside.  We wanted the calf to be happy and safe during our adventure, so we gave her sawdust to lay in, and frozen two liter bottles to lay on if she got hot, since it was the middle of the summer. Once we got down to Salt Lake and took the calf out of the truck, she was nervous being in the big city and did not want to walk very much, so my mom carried her.  As we walked down the street, everyone we passed and the news studio employees stopped what they were doing to come pet the baby calf.  It was so fun to talk to people and let them pet her.  They got to pet an animal they had never been around before, and we got to tell them about dairy cows.  Our news interview went great, and we had fun sharing information about the dairy industry with their viewers.  My mom took the calf home as soon as our TV interview was over; she was tired after being a star.  Our media tour continued with an interview at KSOP radio station and then a trip to a children’s hospital where we gave out Got Milk? shirts and cow glasses to kids and their families.  It was really fun to see how excited the little kids got when we came to visit.  The staff was very excited we were there and insisted getting a picture with us to add to their dairy ambassador wall.  Meeting all of these sweet people was an amazing experience, and it sure made me appreciate being healthy a lot more.  This was one of my favorite days of the summer.

Calf interview with 2 news

A young calf visits the Channel 2 News Studios

Continuing our summer of events, we represented farmers in July at the Ogden Farmers Market.  At this Agriculture Day event, farmers of all different kinds get together to bring farm animals and equipment into the middle of Ogden for all of the people to see.  We ran the dairy booth and gave out cheese sticks and answered questions about the cows, and their products.

At the Utah State Fair in September, we helped hand out ribbons during the heifer show.  Having participated in this show in the past, it was fun for me to watch all of my friends show their heifers.  Later that afternoon we helped at the annual Utah Ice Cream Festival, which is an all you can eat ice cream party. We handed out prizes, and talked to people.  Both events this day were a lot of fun and I loved the all you can eat ice cream.  This was my last state event, and I was sad to see them end.

Lucky for me the Cache County Dairy Princess who are part of the same program were very kind and asked me to assist them at two events.  Cache County is where I live now that I am attending Utah State University.  The first event I helped with was a College of Agriculture event it was a Utah’s Own Barbeque.  We were able to set up our tent and hand out local cheese to everyone who came in.  I had a lot of fun getting to know the three Cache County girls.  Later they asked me to help at the Gossner Foods Traveler Classic Basketball tournament.  This is a basketball tournament put on for Utah State by Gossner Foods a local dairy product plant.  There were six games and we attended all of them.  We assisted with give a ways and competitions during time outs and half time.  My favorite part was walking through the crowd between games and talking to fans about having three a day of dairy and giving out teddy bears to the littlest fans.  We were also honored during the Championship game on the last day of the tournament.  Wearing my red Jr. Prom dress I was escorted my dad a dairy farmer and presented for my year of work as a Utah Dairy Ambassador.  By the end of the tournament I had made three awesome new friends.

This year was fantastic I feel truly blessed to have been given the opportunity to represent the Dairy Farmers of Utah.  I loved every second of it, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.  I love all of the people I got to meet and work with, and I made a lot of new friends in people I would have never met otherwise.  There were many things I learned and even a few events I did not have time to talk about.  This was one of the best adventures of my life, and it was because of all of the people I met along the way.

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Keeping Cows Warm During a Deep Winter Freeze

With much of the country just emerging from a deep freeze, we have focused on how to keep ourselves warm and our cars from icing over, but what about dairy cattle? Winter takes on a new meaning when you have a dairy farm, and keeping the cattle warm and thriving through the winter can be challenging with the huge temperature drop, snowy ground, and sometimes windy conditions. We caught up with young farmer, Braden Anderson, who farms with his father in Northern Utah to understand more about what it takes to keep cattle healthy during frigid temperatures.

For each stage of a diary cow’s life, we have tactics to keep them healthy and warm during these cold months. For our milk cows (those members of the herd who are actively milking), we do the following:

  • Keep feed in front of them all the time. When it is cold, cows’ metabolisms are revved up in order to help their bodies generate warmth. As a result, they need to eat more during the winter in order to maintain an appropriate weight and continue to produce milk.
  • Keep their bedding dry. It is harder to stay warm when wet, so everyday we go through the cows’ stalls with a pitchfork to clean out and fluff the straw. Twice per week we add or replace their straw bedding.
  • Make sure their water is always unfrozen. Despite the cold temperatures, cows need just as much water in the winter as in the summer, so we make sure that they always have access to fresh, unfrozen water.
Fresh Straw Bedding

Fresh Straw Bedding

Our Heifers (young cows before they have had a calf) need to be taken care of too. Even though they are not part of the active milking herd, they are an essential part of our dairy – they are the young cows that will keep the dairy going in the future. In order to stay healthy and keep growing, we do many of the same things that we do for our milk cows – primarily keeping their bedding dry and always providing fresh, nutritious hay.

Winter can be tough on baby calves. The most common ailments include scours (diarrhea) and high temperatures. We do our very best to keep them as healthy as possible by providing lots of straw bedding so they are in a dry, warm environment. When a baby is born in the winter you have to do things a little differently, since you cannot leave a wet-newborn calf out in the cold for long. Here is the way we do things on our farm: After the calf is born we let the momma lick it for about 15-20 minutes.  We then dip their navel with iodine to prevent infection and we cover the newborn with a clean blanket and put them under a heat lamp. Once the calf is warm and dry, we give it the colostrum from the mother. This first milk is highly nutritious and helps build immunity in the young animal. We leave the baby calf under the heat lamp for about 2-3 days depending on how the calf is doing and the weather. If you get the calf off to a good start, she will do great throughout the remainder of winter.

Anderson Momma and Baby

A Momma licking her newborn calf

We take care of our animals all year long, but in the winter, we have some extra work to do, and we are always keeping our eyes open for signs of sick cattle. If we can catch an ailment early, we have a much better chance for a healthy recovery.

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