Monday, December 26, 2011

How Much Milk?

This is a question I get asked A LOT!  And, one that requires a lot of math to answer.  First of all, dairy farmers are paid based on pounds, or even more specifically hundred weights (cwt.) of milk, not gallons, like most of you are used to buying it.
First of all, it takes approximately 8 pounds of milk to make a gallon of whole milk.  (we'll leave it simple for now, and not worry about trying to convert it to skim)

Our milk gets picked up every day, and the milk truck driver writes the weight based on the measurement of the liquid in the tank.  Our cows will vary what they milk from day to day, depending on the weather and a variety of other factors, but overall stay pretty consistent from day to day until we get major weather shifts (like summer heat).

For instance, today our cows milked 6150 pounds, and we are milking 88 cows, so each of our cows is milking
6150/88 = 72.6 pounds per cow. 
72.6 / 8 = 9.075 gallons per cow per day

Remember, that each cow gets milked twice each day, so that means they each give ~36 pounds of milk or 4 1/2 gallons every morning & every night.

Brent can tell you how many Dairy Queen Blizzards that is a day.
If our cows would maintain that milk production year round, they would produce (73*365) 26,645 pounds  (3,330 gallons) in a year, and the entire herd, based on having 90 cows in the herd (we are a little low on cows right now) is (73*365*90) 2,398,050 pounds of milk (or 299,756 gallons) produced from our farm each year.

Now, we don't produce that much milk right now for a couple of reasons.  One, our cows are doing really well right now.  It's cool temperatures, and they are enjoying their new barn.  We also have a lot of cows that are fresh (or just calved) this fall, and they tend to give more milk for the first 3-4 months after calving.  The other reason is that cows don't milk 365 days a year, if everything works correctly.  A cow should have a calf about every year.  Before she has her next calf, we stop milking her for about 2 months.  That gives the cow a chance to "reset" or "reboot", and put all of her energy needs towards her pregnancy.  We also move them to a different pen (appropriately named "Maternity") that we bed with straw, so that the calf can be born into a dry place, without all the other cows around to potentially harm them.  

Besides knowing the bulk tank weight (the weight the milk truck driver writes down), we also know how much each individual cow is milking.  We have a milk tester come out to our farm monthly.  Our tester, Jenny, brings milk meters that are attached to the milking machines, and give us a reading of what each cow is milking. 

You can see the different jars filling up at different rates based on how much those cows are milking.

Cow #9025 is milking ~30 pounds this milking (60 pounds per day or 7 1/2 gallons per day)

She also takes samples of milk from each cow to test for fat and protein.  This all gets put into a computer program that Brent accesses on his labtop, and allows us to keep records on all of the cows, determining what things we need to watch for, or improve upon.

That's enough math for a Sunday night I think! 

Monday, December 19, 2011

It works!

So, I did that restock the frig run last week.  I didn't have to be home to milk, so I was able to take my time and double-check prices (something I don't have time to do nearly enough).  I've always said that "milk is milk is milk", regardless of the label.  It is all safe and nutritious, and you can take your pick in the dairy case of whatever suits you and your family.
There is a really cool trick you can try at home with your milk.  Go to:, and type in a 4 or 5 digit code that is printed on every dairy product, next to the "use by date" info.
This will tell you in what plant your milk was bottled (or other product was processed).  If that # is 17-284, it comes from Muller-Pinehurst Dairy, a small milk bottling plant located just a couple miles from our dairy, and where all the milk from our cows goes daily.  However, Muller-Pinehurst labeled products are not cheap.  When we first got married, I asked Brent, "Do I HAVE to buy the our branded milk?  It's really expensive."  He giggled at me, as he explained that several brands of milk come out of our plant.  Prairie Farms & Schnucks brands are a couple, but there are many more.  So, I've always told people that if you had time to look at the codes on the different brands of milk at the grocery store, you would probably find that they all carry the same code, or were made in the same plant (and therefore, likely came from the same cows).
So, this grocery store trip, I took the time to check, and found that the:

Dean's @ $4.39/gal

Jewel @ $3.59/gal

and Shopper's Value @ $2.99/gal

were ALL bottled in plant 17-38, or Dean's Dairy in Huntley, IL

If you feel loyalty to a brand, those producers will appreciate your loyalty and support, but I'm also happy if you take that extra savings to splurge on an additional pork loin or gallon of ice cream!
It all depends on what you are using the product for and what your taste buds say.  For instance, I buy "cheap" shredded cheese for use in casseroles, etc., but I buy branded cheese, for say, the cheese platter at Christmas, when it will be served alone.  It is all one's opinion and ability to make the choice for what they want to buy.  However, it is ALL safe, nutritious, and raised by a farmer that cares about their animals.

On a side note, the organic milk carried at this store came from 16-04, or Boise, Idaho.  "Local" is a relative term, but it is a choice that everyone should have the right to pay more for, if they so wish.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Farmer's Vacation

We've had a whirlwind of activity lately!  Brent & I were in Chicago for the Annual Farm Bureau Meeting for the entire weekend.  That meant missing 8 milkings in a row!  I was already out of the barn due to my foot, so we are very thankful that Warren & Gail are still able to hold down the fort while we are gone.  Though, I'm guessing, that they felt kind of like we did when they were gone for a week at the end of that time, and were glad to see us return.  I got back in the barn to milk Monday night, but I realized if everyone is around for milking, I should probably still take it easy a bit, as my foot was swelling a bit by Wednesday morning.  Therefore, tonight's mission - restock the fridge! 
Brent had a lot of official duties as a member of the Young Leader Committee, and was elected to serve as Secretary for the next year.  We both want a vacation from the "vacation".  As we have been told, a farm meeting and the State Fair don't count as vacations, but when you farm, you take whatever little time away from the farm you can get to enjoy with each other.  We got to spend time with other young farm families, see friends we hadn't seen in awhile (my college roommates), and other farmers from throughout the state.  It was certainly physically easier than "normal" farm work, but we also had a lot to do! 
I got to visit with field moms about our dairy and our farm, along with other farmwives. 
I also got to visit Mrs. Mimlitz's and the other 4th grade class at Ames School.  I enjoyed talking to the kids and the teachers about all things farming! 
Rest assured, I will answer some more of those questions you asked:
"How much milk does a cow give?"
"Where does our milk go?"
and several others.....when I catch up from the "vacation"!
Brent & I don't take a lot of pictures together that don't also include cows! 
This is one back from our college formal, and shows that yes, I do own a dress, and we know how to "clean up" now & then!