Thursday, July 11, 2013

This is where milk comes from, kiddos!

While Frankie and Pop-pop were here, we took them to Mima and Boppie's farm for a little tour.  Standard stops include a paddle across the lake pond overgrown mud puddle, driving the tractor and the loader and a ride in the bed of the pick-up.  This time, though, we got a special treat - something that even my parents and I hadn't seen for years.  We got a tour of a dairy farm.

The farm is run by J.R. Pennington, a good family friend (and Boppie's golf buddy) with whom I went to high school.  They have a few hundred cows - small compared to the newer commercial operations, but big enough to make it a 24/7 constantly moooo-ving (sorry!) milk factory.

First stop was technically, I suppose, a glimpse into where the magic begins.  One of the cows was in the chute, ready for her insemination.  The Penningtons used to keep bulls, but there are a couple of major drawbacks.  For one, small bull selections can lead to inbreeding.  That's bad, even for bovines.  Secondly, they are a gigantic pain in the ass.  They're unpredictable, they can be very dangerous and, if I recall correctly from my childhood, they stink.  So now dairy farmers peruse the latest Holstein Magazine, select their donors based on beefcake (sorry again!) photos and stats and keep tubes on dry ice until ready to use. I thought the kids would be freaked by the demo, but the Bunny and the Bug actually scooted around to our fair friend's caboose for a better viewing angle.

The Bunny and the Bug (oddly enough) really want to see this action.

I was struck while walking through the corrals by just how friendly these girls are.  They weren't frightened of any of us, and we were able to pet their fat flanks as we passed.  They followed me while I was taking their glamor shots, and I'm pretty sure they would have nose-print-kissed my camera if I'd let 'em!

"Now get my close-up, honey"
Next we went into the milking building, where the ladies line up three times a day to have their udders emptied.  Each cow's tag tells the milker what to expect - where she is in the cycle, how much she's been delivering daily, and if there appears to be a problem that needs review.

From there we saw the feed.  The kids jumped between the huge hay bales.  Boppie felt sugar beet mash for the first time in years.  But that's not the highlight.  How exciting can feed be, really?

The highlight: the calves.  These sweet little things start off around 80 or 90 lbs. and grow from there.  One was just hours old.  Like the cows, the calves were super friendly - we scratched their sides and they sucked on our hands, and the Bunny wanted to pet every single one.  Especially the white-faced ones.  

This was the Bunny's especial favorite!

Thanks for the tour, J.R.!

Bonus photo: Frankie behind the wheel!

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