Note: This blog post was written by a group of students in the Capstone in Animal and Dairy Sciences course.
This group included students whose familiarity with dairy operations ranged from having never been to the Bearden Dairy Research Unit to those who were familiar with the daily operations. We were assigned the milking parlor portion of the tour. Our station was unique since it was essentially three stations in one. We had the parlor itself, a cow to be hand milked, and the milk room to show visitors.
As guest approached our station, they were given information about the breeds of dairy cow located at the MSU dairy. The breeds of dairy cattle housed on the farm are Holstein, Jersey, and a crossbreed of the two. There was an explanation of what the cows are known for. Holsteins are known for the amount of milk they produce, and Jerseys are known for their milk fat. The type of milking parlor being used was also explained to visitors.
Upon entering the milking parlor guests were given an opportunity to experience a behind the scenes glimpse at how milk is obtained from the dairy cows. A brief description about the mechanics of the parlor was first given, for example, how the cows are positioned. Each step of the milking process was then explained from cleaning each teat to obtaining the last drop of milk. Guest were allowed to touch the equipment to have a better understanding of how each part worked.
Over at the hands-on portion of our station, we had a four year old Holstein cow named Magnolia Rochelle. She is in her second lactation and produces about 130 pounds of milk per day which is the equivalent of 18-19 gallons of milk a day between the morning and afternoon milkings. Visitors loved getting to pet her and learning how to hand milk. The kids were the most interested in milking her. The adults were amazed at just how much milk a dairy cow can produce in a day.
In the milk room, visitors were shocked that cattle’s body temperature was so much warmer than ours, which is why the milk they produce is 102 degrees Fahrenheit. The milk that was produced that morning was already at about 38 degrees Fahrenheit. The visitors were interested in the sheer size of the milk tank and how “hands off” the handling process was. The drain was pointed out to show what happens to the milk if traces of antibiotics are found, since no milk is allowed to be used if it contains antibiotics.
The age range of visitors went from toddlers all the way to the elderly. Our group had to be able to adapt to the variety of ages as well as the different knowledge the visitors had about farm animals. The weather also did not help communication. By being able to adapt to our audience and our environment, we were able to help consumers “Know Their Farmer.”