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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Flat Stanley Visits the Farm

One afternoon, I opened my office mail to find Flat Stanley in an envelope attached to a note from one of our local Reno schools. The school asked if I could take Flat Stanley on a field trip to a local dairy farm and then share a story of his adventures. That sounded like a great opportunity to head down the road to Liberty Jersey Dairy Farm to pay the Christophs a visit and introduce them to Flat Stanley.

Flat Stanley at Liberty Jersey Dairy Farm in Fallon, NV

Flat Stanley visits the farm – here he is with Ted Christoph

Flat Stanley learned a few things that afternoon.

History: This particular farm was founded in 1976 – the year we celebrated our country’s bicentennial. and The farm’s namesake, “Liberty” honors that event.

Etymology: The farm’s name not only relates to our country’s history but the word Jersey is important and it describes a key feature of the farm. The Christoph family milks Jersey cows. There are several varieties of milk cows, and Jersey cows are typically brown and smaller than Holstein cows – the most popular black and white dairy cows. Jerseys are really curious, friendly animals. You can learn more about the different types of dairy cows here. Flat Stanley thought the girls were really pretty, and he loved their big brown eyes.

People: Flat Stanley got to meet Ted Christoph who gave us the grand tour. Ted recently graduated from Cornell University and  is excited to be back home working on the family farm. He farms with his mom and dad – Val and Bill Christoph. Almost all of the dairy farms in America are family owned and operated!

Cows: Flat Stanley met a few baby calves – one young girl who was 10-days old and another just hours old. He learned that calves are housed in their own houses or pens, sometimes called “hutches” in order to keep them safe, clean, and healthy.

Flat Stanley Meets a Young Calf

Flat Stanley Meets a Young Calf

Flat Stanley learns about dairy calves

Flat Stanley visits a calf in her hutch

Cows’ Food: Flat Stanley learned that cows can eat all sorts of things, and many of the things they eat cannot be eaten by humans, like almond hulls. At Liberty Jersey Dairy Farm, the Christophs feed their dairy cows grain, canola, dried brewers, almond hulls, cotton seed, and hay. The cow’s food is called a Total Mixed Ration (TMR), and it is specifically formulated by a nutritionist to make sure that each cow gets just the right amount of nutrients so they can produce wholesome, nutritious milk. Learn more about a cow’s diet here.

Flat Stanley learns about what dairy cows eat

Flat Stanley learns about what dairy cows eat

Milk: We visited the milk parlor just after the cows finished being milked, so the equipment and stalls were being cleaned and sanitized – this extensive cleaning process takes place after each milking to ensure high quality, safe, clean milk.

Flat Stanley had fun on his dairy farm adventure. After his day on the farm, we headed back to his school where he enjoyed a cookie and an ice cold glass of milk.

Posted by Libby Lovig, RD – Dairy Council of Utah/Nevada

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Food Literacy – Farm Literacy

Utah State University offers a Food Literacy class. Designed for Nutrition and Food Science majors, Family and Consumer Sciences majors, and Family and Consumer Sciences Education majors, the course “challenges students to take reasoned and justified action in the home, community, and world related to food from the ground up.” The course’s mission seemed perfectly aligned with our goal of reconnecting people with the farm and showing people where their food comes from “from the ground up,” so we arranged for a field trip.

Munk Farms

Munk Farms – Northern Utah’s Cache Valley

Mid-October, about 50 students, over two consecutive days, hopped on a bus to visit a dairy farm and then a processing plant in Northern Utah’s Cache Valley. Munk Farms hosted the group, and our guide was Tammy Munk, who took the students on a very complete tour. From an upper observation deck of the dairy’s milk parlor, then into the middle of the milking carousel, a walk over to the calf area, then around the dairy on a hay wagon, and finally to the feed pits, Tammy  gave the students the opportunity to see and experience first-hand, the operation of a modern dairy farm.

Munk Farms Milk Parlor

Students head into the milk parlor

Photo Oct 16, 3 33 05 PM

Students get up close and personal with the milk parlor. Tammy takes them into the middle of the carousel where they see pipes and equipment being cleaned between milkings.

The mid-day milking session had just ended when the students arrived (the Munk’s milk about 600 cows 3 times per day), so instead of witnessing the cows take a ride on the “Cow”ousel the students were able to see how meticulously the Munks clean and sterilize the milking equipment after each session.

Students were introduced to a brand-new baby calf, born just hours before, and encouraged to feed and pet the older calves.

Giving a calf a drink

Giving a calf a drink

In addition to seeing dairy cows and learning about on-farm practices, students had the opportunity to listen to Shane Munk talk about his dairy’s feeding/nutrition regimen, and students were able to make the connection between a cow’s diet and her milk production. (Click here to read more about what cows eat.)

The diet of a dairy cow

Shane Munk talks about his dairy cows’ diet

The Munks sell their milk to Gossner Foods – one of the country’s largest Swiss Cheese makers – located just 5 miles away in Logan, UT, where their raw milk is pasteurized and made into cheese and shelf stable milk. Students were able to enjoy cheese, flavored milk, and made-fresh-on-the-premesis ice cream while taking a virtual tour of the processing plant. Take your own tour by watching the video below.

Gossner Cheese, Milk & Ice Cream

Enjoying Dairy Products at Gossner Foods

It was a great two days, and we appreciate the opportunity to work with Utah State University, their professors, and their students to enhance food literacy “from the ground up!”

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The Corn Harvest

Featured Farm Photo
September 2013

The Corn Harvest

The Bateman Brothers Harvest Corn

The four Bateman Brothers and their father operate Batemans Mosida Farm. This photo was taken during the Corn harvest of 2012. As operators of a large family dairy, the Bateman brothers take pride in running a safe, healthy operation that consistently produces high quality milk.

Their dairy, home to just over 6500 cows, is an amazing example of serenity and efficiency.

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Late Summer on the Farm

Featured Farm Photo
August 2013

Harvest Time

Harvest Time on a Dairy in Northern Utah

Thank you to Tammy Munk – Munk Farms in Amalga, UT for submitting this stunning photo for our monthly featured farm photo series. Tammy Munk and her husband Shane farm with their son, Jason, brother-in-law, Sid, and nephew, Braden. She loves photography and often takes her camera as she walks around and works on the farm. This late afternoon photo captures a summer harvest.

In addition to operating a dairy with 1200 head of cattle where they milk 550 cows three-times per day, the Munk family hosts community events on the farm. (See pictures and read about Farm Field Days this past spring).

For all dairy farm families, life on the farm entails far more than just milking cows, and for the Munks, this also means farming a significant amount of cropland where they grow hay and corn to feed their cows.

Munk Corn Crop 2012

Sid Munk and His Son, Shay – Early Corn Crop 2012

Crop farming makes for quite a busy summer! Hay gets planted as early as possible. In Utah’s Cache Valley, this usually means late April or early May, and depending on the summer (amount of rain and temperature), the Munks typically get 4 or 5 cuttings of hay that they harvest and preserve as feed for their cattle.

The corn harvest takes place in early fall and is usually the last crop harvest before winter arrives.

Harvest Time

Harvest Time on Munk Farms

See an additional photo from Tammy Munk – Blanketing Our Babies

Follow the Munks directly on their blog: Munk Family Farms

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Dairy Cow Stats…

A Girl and Her Jersey

The Jerseys at Sage Hill Dairy in Fallon, NV

  • Cows are interesting creatures. They have 4 stomachs, 32 teeth, and can smell something up to six miles away.
  • Utah and Nevada are home to a combined total of about 120,000 dairy cows that live on 250 family farms.
  • There are 6 main breeds of dairy cows: Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Milking Shorthorn, Jersey, Holstein, and Gurnsey. Holstein is the most common breed in the United States. (Click for more on the breeds of dairy cows)
  • Cows are milked 2-3 times per day and deliver, on average, 6-8 gallons of milk daily, which means that ONE  cow will produce an average of 200,000 glasses of milk in her lifetime.
  • The average life of a dairy cow is about 5 years (3 lactation cycles) but this can vary greatly based on the individual cow. After having 11 calves, some cows are still milking!
  • It takes 10 pounds of milk to make 1 pound of whole milk cheese, and there are over 300 different varieties of cheese in the U.S. alone! Here in America, Cheddar is the most popular.

Enjoy a cup of milk and make a toast to your dairy cows!

A Holstein and Her Calf

A Holstein and Her Newborn Calf

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