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Your Top 5 Dairy Questions: Answered

by Lexie Nunes

From seeing the famous Butter Cow to the fried food, carnival rides and livestock shows, there’s a lot of fun things to do at the Ohio State Fair! A popular attraction at the fair is the Milk-A-Cow station where people of all ages are able to try their hand at milking a real cow. As the summer intern for American Dairy Association Mideast, I was given the opportunity to interact with those at the Milk-A-Cow station and talk to them about all things dairy.

Here are the top five questions I was asked at the Ohio State Fair.

Untitled-2What’s on her udder?

This was my most frequently asked question. The answer? An antibacterial teat dip, which comes in a variety of colors! Before being milked, each cow’s teats are sprayed or dipped with a liquid teat dip to remove any dirt or harmful bacteria, then wiped off with a clean towel. After each milking, the teat dip is applied again to protect the udder and teats from any bacteria when the cow returns to the barn. Some teat dips even have skin conditioning properties – just like the soap and hand sanitizers I use at home!

Untitled-7Does it hurt the cows to be milked? 

No! Today’s milking parlors utilize the latest technology for safety, comfort and productivity for both the cow and the person milking. Dairy cows go to the milking parlor to be milked at least twice a day by an automatic machine that gently and safely removes just the right amount of milk. It doesn’t hurt at all, and the cows look forward to being milked.

A new technology that some farmers are taking advantage of is using robotic milking systems, which lets the cows decide when they want they want to be milked. There is almost always a line of cows waiting to get in to be milked, proving that cows want to be milked!

Untitled-6How long does it take to milk a cow?

In the milking parlor, cows are milked 2-3 times daily and it usually takes 5-7 minutes. So, that means a cow only spends about 10-15 minutes of the day being milked. She spends the rest of her day eating, drinking and relaxing!

Untitled-3Can you drink milk straight from the cow

No. Although the barn cats seem to love it, consuming raw, unpasteurized milk is not recommended. All milk intended for direct consumption should be pasteurized — it’s a matter of food safety. Pasteurized milk provides all the nutrition of raw milk, without the risk of illness.

Untitled-4What do cows eat?

Cows eat up to 100 pounds of feed a day! So, it is important that they get the most out of every bite. A cow’s diet varies  from farm to farm because dairy farmers work closely with nutritionists to create a balanced diet for their cows using local ingredients. Most dairy farmers feed what is called a Total Mixed Ration (TMR) that combines multiple ingredients into one perfectly balanced meal for the cows.

Fun Fact: 75% of a cow’s diet is inedible to humans! They are the ultimate recyclers because they can turn inedible by-products from human food and fiber industries like citrus pulp, cottonseed and brewers’ grain into wholesome nutritious milk!

Untitled-5Bonus Question: Are all dairy farms factory-owned?

No! In fact, 97% of dairy farms across the United States are family-owned and operated. Dairy farmers make it a priority to provide the best care to their cows and land to produce safe, high-quality milk.

Although this was not one of the most frequently asked questions at the fair, it is one of my favorite misconceptions to address. Have more questions? Comment below!

Lexie Nunes

Lexie is the 2018 Communications Intern for American Dairy Association Mideast. Having grown up on her family's dairy farm in California, she has deep appreciation for the dairy industry. Lexie enjoys photography and videography, traveling to new places and spending time with friends.

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