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I received two complimentary passes on the “Be a Dairy Farmer” tour in exchange for this blog post. Thank you again, New Day Dairy!
Since our move to Iowa over the summer, Andy and I have jumped in feet-first in experiencing all things Midwestern. Recently, a new friend named Lynn invited Andy and me out to her family’s dairy farm, New Day Dairy. They recently started offering the “Be a Dairy Farmer” experience and she thought it would be a neat way to immerse myself in the culture of Iowa.
Y’all, this was the neatest and most educational, uniquely Iowan/Midwestern experience I have been on to date. Andy worked on a cattle ranch in northern Nevada for a few years before he joined the Army, so he had some experience with cattle from the meat-producing side of things and had an idea of what to expect, but it was a new experience for him to see things from the dairy side! I may have grown up in Kentucky, but honestly, my only experience with cows before my dairy farm tour was driving past them in fields to wherever I was headed and occasionally rolling down the windows to moo at them. I knew going into this I would be learning so much, and I was right!
Lynn’s husband, #DairyManDan, took Andy and I on a tour of the dairy farm. He’s a 5th generation dairy farmer! Dan was incredibly patient with me– to be honest, I was a teensy bit nervous because I had never been around cows before and they’re gigantic– and answered all of my silly questions!
- The cows have names! The lineage of their cows is determined by the first letter of their name. Some of the cows with less-common letter lineages have unique names– we met one cow named Xtina. (I’m assuming like Christina Aguilera, haha!)
- One of the reasons they name the cows is because they are in their family for so long! They get to know their names and personalities; Dairyman Dan can even identify a specific cow by sight from across the barn! Typically their cows stay at the farm around 8 years– the average amount of time a cow produces quality milk. When the cow can no longer produce, typically she will go to a slaughterhouse and be made into the delicious ground beef we all love to eat!
- Some of the cows on their farm are descendants of cows that Dan’s mom raised as a child!
- They grow some hay in their fields on the farm for the cow to eat, and other portions of the feed they purchase (like the “leftovers” from a distillery!)
- They artificially inseminate their cows. Their milking robot can detect when a cow will be in heat, which helps Dan know when the best time to artificially inseminate them is!
We had the opportunity to help clean the pens, bottle feed the baby calfs, ride in the tractor (my first tractor ride ever!) and move the expecting mamas over to the maternity pen. I also had the opportunity to stop and squeal at all the cute little barn kitties!
While we were there, some of the pregnant cows were very close to their due dates. I thought about asking if I could feel a baby calf kick inside the mama’s belly, but decided Mama Cow would probably not like strangers touching her belly 😉 I think it would be so neat to watch the mama cow give birth. Andy pointed out to me that if the baby calf gets stuck in the birth canal, you have to stick your whole arm inside the mama to help pull the baby out and if that doesn’t work, you have to assist with a ratchet! Um…. I’ll pass, thanks! 😉
At the time we visited, they had two cows with “L” names expecting babies, so we suggested they name the next baby Lily! At one point on the tour, Andy whispered that the cows reminded him of our pup…. a little clumsy and a whole lot smarter than her, and loves booty scratches! Maybe the next time we visit they will have a Lily calf!
The thing that was most amazing to me was seeing all of the science and technology behind dairy farming. New Day Dairy uses “Rita the Robot” to milk the cows. The cows all have chips in them to determine how many times a day they are being milked and how much milk they are producing, and Rita compiles all the data. Since she milks 24/7, she is designed to call Dairyman Dan when there is an issue with the milking machine! They also have some cool feature to help clean the manure out of the “alleyways” instead of hand scraping it all the way down the barn. They a robot named “Freddie the Feed Pusher” to help keep the feed near the cows, since the cows sometimes push it away as they are eating.
Rita milking a cow!
The inside of Rita
Freddie the Feed Pusher is the green machine on the right!
Another thing that was interesting to me was the Business side of things! Lynn’s degree is in Business Management and it had come in handy as they have expanded the family dairy farm! (This is another reason why I’m so excited to be going back for a Bachelor’s in Business, because I could use it a million ways!) Their home is an apartment-style space that overlooks the dairy that they eventually want to turn into a Bed and Breakfast. I would LOVE to stay in the B&B! Imagine sitting in the loft, listening to the gentle moos of cows at night… you know, without actually having to sit in the barn! 😉
New Day Dairy’s mission statement is to “develop, milk, and bless.” It definitely was a blessing to me because I was able to see how a gallon of milk at Walmart comes into existence! It gave me a new appreciation for being able to just drive to the store and grab a gallon of milk whenever I am craving it. It gave me a new appreciation for the men and women who run dairy farms, cattle farms, and produce farms! We literally could not survive without farmers as we would not have food, meat, and milk without it! It is also so amazing how God designed cows so we could have milk and cheese and get our Vitamin D. It totally blew my mind that making milk from cows was very similar to human breastfeeding; how amazing is it that our God designed all of it!
Lynn and Dan were the most amazing people and I am so thankful we did a dairy farm tour on their farm! She was so gracious when I had to reschedule our tour twice due to Army things and then some rough weather! They invited us to stick around afterwards for dinner (and to drink a glass of milk, because of course!) and Andy and I had such a great time getting to know them. I wish that we lived closer to their neck of the woods so we could hang out with them more!
Next summer, I’m sure we’ll have friends and family come visit. I definitely plan on taking them on the “Be a Dairy Farmer” experience at New Day Dairy!
Have you ever visited a dairy farm?
What is your favorite dairy product?