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This post is sponsored by Prairie Farms. All opinions are my own.
A couple of weeks ago, Hattie and I had the opportunity to visit a dairy farm. When Prairie Farms first asked us if we’d be interested in learning more about where milk comes from, I immediately got excited, started googling how to milk a cow, you know, so I was prepared. I was excited to educate Hattie on where our favorite chocolate milk came from and the process from dairy farm to our table.
Prairie Farms Dairy is a dairy cooperative located headquartered in Edwardsville, Illinois, a suburb within Greater St. Louis. The dairy cooperative collects milk from dairy farmers in the Midwest to produce a variety of products including milk, ice cream, butter, yogurt, cottage cheese, and more! Founded in 1938, this cooperative of over 800 dairy farmers helps to make every meal on your table special with quality products you can serve your family.
Well, let me tell you I didn’t have to use any of that googled knowledge because where we went, no one was hand milking cows. In fact, at many dairy farms now a robot can milk a cow 24/7. I was blown away! Our friends at Prairie Farms invited us on a day trip to New Haven, Missouri to meet the Scheer Family, just one of the many family farms apart of the Prairie Farms cooperative. As I mentioned I was super excited to milk cows, and once we met Rick and family, I quickly learned the dairy industry has dramatically changed in a great way!
Let’s take a tour of the Scheer Dairy Farm!
The Scheers take pride in their farm with over 120 cows in their care. Their goal is excellent cow care which is a requirement by Prairie Farms. The Prairie Farm Cow Care Program is a guideline that ensures that all cows are given the proper health care, housing, and milking routine to give them the best quality of life to produce the best quality milk. It was definitely evident in our visit. The cows are free to roam within this covered enclosure. They have plenty of food to eat and drink. Dairy Farmers have milking down to a science. They are able to monitor how much a cow eats and drinks as well know how much milk the cows will likely produce. They can tell when a cow is getting sick based off all of the statistics they tracks. Like parents, we can tell when our children are sick, and the Scheer Family can tell the exact same way with their cows.
We also learned that cows like the weather a little bit cooler. The open area has sand for them to rest on to keep them at the optimal temperature and there are fans running when it’s too hot. They are free to roam around, stretch their legs, but are still protected by the elements under the canopy.
We could tell by talking with Rick that he was passionate about what he did. He could answer every question I had, which turned out to be a lot! We learned that cows typically are milking cows for about 6 years and have anywhere from 2-3 calves on average.
Sadly, my cow milking services were not needed because at the Scheer’s Farm, their cows are milked by robots. At first I couldn’t believe it, but we were taken behind the scenes to see where the work happens. The machines clean the utters, knew which utters should be milked, and gave the cow a snack. Once complete, the robot would wash the cow once again, and all of the fresh milk was piped over to a holding tank in another room. Rick told us that we probably would have a hard time hand milking cows because it’s not something they are used to experiencing. The other great thing about using a robot for milking is that cows can go into the machine to be milked 24/7. That means more milk with less manual work. I call that a win. I also had them help me crunch a few numbers on how much it would cost me to start my own dairy farm. I’ll leave it to the experts, and I’ll stick to telling their stories.
After we finished watching a few cows get milked, we headed across to another room to the milk tank storage. This tank was huge. Rick shared that the milk truck comes on a regular basis as well as to other dairy farms in the area , then all of the milk is sent to Central Dairy in Jefferson City, MO (also owned by Prairie Farms) to be pasteurized, bottled, and hopefully on a store shelf near you in within 48 hours.
Hattie didn’t want to check out the milk, but I climbed up for a peek. Rick said that raw milk isn’t the best thing to drink if it isn’t something you are already consuming. Leave it to the experts to pasteurize the milk for you and purchase Prairie Farms milk at a retailer near you. Rick even mentioned he has to go and buy his own Prairie Farm products in the store. How cool to see what you produce on your farm on shelves at a grocery story?
If you had to guess what Hattie’s favorite part is – you’d be right. Calves! There were fresh babies just a couple of weeks old and bigger than Hattie. She was so excited to pet them, attempt to feed them, and got excited when they talked back to her. My gal has always been a tactile learner, so hands on is always the best for her.
Thank you to the Scheer Family for having us out to learn more about where our dairy comes from. As a consumer, I think it is always important to understand where your food is coming from. I love sharing with Hattie where things come from, and she appreciates it more. Right after our visit we were at the grocery store picking up Prairie Farm’s newest cottage cheese cups and we talked about how Mr. Rick’s cows could have helped make the cottage cheese. She thought that was really neat. Side note – The Garden Veggie Cottage Cheese Cups are amazing!
What a wonderful, educational experience for our family today. Have you been to a dairy farm before?
Photography by Megh Christine Photography