Five Fast Facts About Milk

I recently posted about this subject on my facebook page and thought it would be a good idea to put it in blog form and share this info with you all.  

Have you seen the recent ads for Dairy Pure? With their five-point purity promise, It sounds like their milk is the best of the best! You’re probably slamming your fist on the table shouting, “To heck with this other milk I have been buying!  They don’t have a purity promise; I need a purity promise!”

  
 While Dairy Pure is super nutritious milk from super awesome dairy farmers, so is ALL milk.  Yup, that’s right…milk is milk.  Any kind, any brand.  There is no wrong choice in the dairy case!  So spend a little more of your hard earned moo-la (pun INtended) on milk with a label or don’t.  The choice is yours.

Here are Five Fast Facts about ALL milk:

  1. While some farmers may choose NOT to use artificial hormones to help direct nutrients to the udder and increase production, others do and it’s is perfectly safe for the animals and for you. You can learn more about how and why farmers (like me!) use rBST here.

  2. ALL milk is tested for antibiotics.  No farmer wants to produce an unsafe product for their family or yours, so they take antibiotics very seriously and only use them when necessary.  Farmers aren’t just throwing antibiotics around willy nilly, they work with their veternarian and pay close attention to withdrawl periods.  All milk and meat is tested for antibiotics and is disposed of if it tests positive.  Read more about Cows, Antibiotics and You. 

  3. ALL milk is highly regulated and tested for safety and quality. Whether it is on the dairy farm or at the creamery, milk is regularly tested.  Read more about how we test milk at our farm by reading this post.

  4. Dairy farmers know that in order to be profitable they need to raise happy, healthy cows. Part of this includes feeding the cows a nutritious diet. In fact, many dairy farmers work with a nutritionist to produce a quality diet for their animals! 
     

    Our girls enjoying some freshly mixed feed!

     
  5. ALL milk is shipped cold and fresh. If the milk wasn’t shipped cold, it would start to go bad…duh. FUN FACT: The milk you find in your grocery store was likely still in the cow less than 48 hours ago!  It is kind of crazy when you think about it, isn’t it?  Talk about farm fresh!

Now that you know ALL milk is safe, nutritious, fresh and from farmers who care, you can feel comfortable buying Dairy Pure milk or ANY brand you choose. 

CHEERS!

Three Myths About Food & Farming

More than ever, consumers have a growing interest in where their food comes from and how it is produced…which is great!  Folks should care about where their food originates from and it makes my job as a farmer so much more important. But, I don’t ever want consumers to feel “food shamed” or have fear when it comes to grocery shopping.  I always encourage people to seize the opportunity to visit a local farm and to get to know the farmers and their practices, but since that isn’t always possible, I blog. 🙂

I wanted to better understand my consumers and open up a conversation about food and farming.  With so many food buzzwords, Ag misconceptions and bad information on the internet, I think it is pretty common for consumers to have some concerns. So,  I sent out a questionnaire to a few of my non-Ag friends and did some creeping on social media to understand how consumers make their food purchasing decisions.  What I found led me to produce this list:

Three Common Myths About Food and Farming

Myth #1: Organic products are safer and more nutritious

The Truth: Organic products are just as safe and nutritious as conventionally grown products.

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When it comes to safety and nutrition, food is food. Organic is just another farming method, not a safety or quality term.  So what is the difference (besides price)? In my opinion, not much.  In fact, you might be surprised to learn that even organic farmers can use certified chemicals on their crops.   The chemical must be derived from a natural source rather than synthetic, but a chemical is a chemical.  There are different rules and regulations farmers must follow in order to be certified organic, but all farmers have the same goal.   Whether we choose to farm organically or conventionally, farmers are dedicated to producing safe, quality products and caring for the land. Here is an article written by an organic farmer that does a great job of defining organic practices.  Read this!

I support ALL farmers and understand that it takes all kinds of kinds to feed the world. I also understand that organic methods cannot yield the quantity needed to feed the growing population.  We cannot feed the world with just organic methods, nor can a majority of the population afford it!  It is all about consumer choice; no matter what your choice is or what you can afford, know it is safe.

Myth #2: Food with labels = greater quality.

The Truth: A label doesn’t mean diddly squat and for the most part, is nothing more than a marketing scheme.

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“Grass-fed”, “Natural”, “free-range”, “Country”, “Home-grown”, the list goes on and on.  You have seen these labels, perhaps you even base your purchasing choices around them.  Truth be told, with or without a label all food is equal and comes from farmers who care.  These labels are marketing tools that influence you to pay more for a product with a label compared to one without.  (Cough, Cough, Chipotle)  These feel-good buzzwords lead consumers to believe that the product comes from loving farmers who produce a greater product and implies that the label-less products are of poorer quality or come from “mean, factory farms”.   In reality, a packaging label tells consumers little to nothing about where the product originated from or how the animals were raised.

For example, the cows on my family farm are not grass-fed, but I know for a fact that they are provided with plenty of space, feed, shelter and care.  I also know that ALL milk and meat is antibiotic free, but labels lead you to believe otherwise.  Buy what makes you happy, but don’t pay more for a silly label.  If you truly want to know how your food was grown or raised, ask a farmer.

Myth #3: Smaller farms are family owned and provide better care compared to larger farms.

The Truth: 93% of farms are family owned and operated.

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I think there is a misconception that large farms are run by men in suits that pack their animals into a barn and treat them like a commodity.  They have so many animals, how could they possibly provide proper care for each, individual animal?!

As a farm girl who grew up on a 1,500 cow dairy farm and who currently works with her husband and in-laws to milk 500 cows,  I know that farmers love what they do and pay close attention to their animals.   Farmers may choose to grow their herd and their business, but they take the necessary steps to ensure that every animal and piece of land is provided with proper care and attention.  For many, this means incorporating more family members or hiring employees, using technology to help monitor animals and setting up strict protocols. When your livelihood depends on the health and happiness of an animal, you take it seriously and do everything possible to run a prosperous farm.

There are bad farms that are small, good farms that are big and vice versa.  Size has nothing to do with it.  Most farms, no matter their size, are run by farm families who care for their land, animals, and community.

Knowing that consumers have a growing interest in animal welfare, many farmers have been participating in the F.A.R.M. (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management) program.  It is a nationwide program that helps ensure consumers that farmers are using sustainable practices and treating animals with respect.

As a farmer, I want to thank you, the consumer, for caring.  Thank you for caring about the food you eat and the farmers who grow it.  Thank you for wanting to learn and grow with your farmer.  It is because of great consumers, like you, that keep me and my family in the business of doing what we love. 

Why I Farm

So often do we hear farmers say “Howdy, I am Farmer Brown from Wisconsin and we milk 125 cows and run 300 acres of land”.  Blah, Blah, Blah.  Farmers are really good at telling consumers what they do, but what we don’t commonly hear is why they do it.

Sure, it is always cool to learn how many cows your neighbor feeds and milks everyday or how many acres of corn he/she plans to harvest this fall, but wouldn’t you be more interested to know why they farm?  Wouldn’t you agree that it is easier to connect with someone when you understand their core values versus their business stats?  Farming is more than just numbers and trying to make a profit, it is a lifestyle.  Each farmer has their own set of reasons and values that drives them to work as hard as they do 365 day a year, and today I want to share my “why” with you. I will try not to get too sappy and sentimental on you

1. It is in my blood.

I was born into a dairy farming family and at a young age my sisters and I were on the farm feeding and caring for our family’s animals.

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I was lucky enough to work with and learn from, not only my parents and grandparents, but also my great-grandparents.  I was taught to be tough enough to take a kick in the leg from a rowdy heifer, but also to be gentle enough to care for newborn calf.  Strong enough to get through the bad days and how to find humor in them when you can.  I learned that a good night’s sleep comes after a hard day’s work and that to get respect, you have to give it.  It is the lessons that they taught me and the passion they showed me that made me want to carry on the family legacy of caring for the land and animals.  I farm because I want to make my family proud.

2. It is important.

People need to eat.  What I do everyday helps feed the world.

“My grandfather use to say that once in your life you need a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman and a preacher, but every day, three times a day, you need a farmer.” -Brenda Schoepp

I know that my job means something and that I can help families all over the country and world.  I think it is really cool that what I do, what I work so hard for everyday, ends up on a dinner table somewhere and brings families together.  By caring for dairy cattle and producing milk I am able to provide nutrition for thousands of families.  I farm because I want to help people.

3. It is what I love.

I love that my job allows me to be outdoors and work with family.  I love that I get to care for animals.  I love that I don’t have to sit in a cubicle all day and that I don’t have to wait until dinner time to see my husband.  I love seeing my calves grow into strong milk cows.  I love that my cows can’t talk back to me. I love watching our fields turn from dirt to green waves of corn.  I love that my job requires brains and physical labor.  I love that I don’t have to do my hair every morning (Even though, sometimes, I still do).  I love seeing the fruits of my labor.  I love that I will be able to pass our farm onto our future children.  I love that every day is different.  I farm because I love it.

Long story short, I farm because I believe in hard work, agriculture and providing families with safe, affordable dairy products. I believe in family, love and passion and my job encompasses all of these values.  Why do you do what you do?

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#Milk Truth

Has your newsfeed been filled with #milktruth posts?  Maybe you have seen something in the newspaper or on television. For some reason, milk has been under attack. Critics are saying don’t drink milk – it’s unneeded, unnatural, and bad for you. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Dairy farmers and milk supporters everywhere are setting the record straight and sharing the truth about milk. Dairy farmers work hard, day and night, caring for their animals to make sure that a safe, nutritious product is delivered to your table. Get to know your farmers and ask them any questions you might have. Not everything you read about milk is true. Decades of nutrition research show how valuable milk is – so don’t let skeptics lead you astray. Learn the truth about milk; visit the Milk Truth page and join the movement!

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MILK IS REAL, WHOLESOME AND LOCAL
Milk is one of the original local, farm-to-table foods. It’s a product from farm families that care about their cows.

 

How to Respond When Your Farming Practices Are Attacked

I have been blogging and sharing stories from my farm life for a little over a year now.  I am a proud 5th generation dairy farmer and my goal is to share the truth about modern agriculture with dairy consumers.  With so many misconceptions about the dairy industry, I find it extremely important to show consumers exactly what goes on at a dairy farm.  Every decision a farmer makes is for the better of the farm and/or animals.  Raising food and fiber ethically and sustainably is not only our duty as farmers, but also ensures a better life for all.  Farming is our way of life, our livelihood and is absolutely a business.  Those of us in the agriculture industry understand this, but there are many who do not.  Most of my followers are perceptive and genuinely interested in what I have to share, but there are always a few who disagree or don’t fully understand each practice. Then, of course there are the activists. (sigh) Go ahead, just pour yourself a glass of alcohol now.

I had my first run-in with a few animal rights activists just last week.  I couldn’t believe how rude and disrespectful some people could be!  I was being called every nasty name in the book and told to “get a real job” (Is there any job more “real” than farming?).  Many of these commenters were immediately banned from my page.  Cyber bullying…ain’t nobody got time for that.  However, I didn’t want to ban everyone just because they had a difference in opinion.  So, if the person was polite I would engage in a conversation with them.

Getting your message across on such an emotional and passionate topic can be tricky, but here are a few tips that work for me.  I am no expert, but I hope you find these tips useful the next time you find yourself in a conversation with a disagreeing party.

1. Stay calm.

Getting fired up and chewing their head off is not going to solve anything.  If you want respect, you have to give it.  While it may be tempting to fire back after being accused of untruths, don’t.  Having passion and pride in what you do is great, but leave it out of the conversation.  Arguing (especially on the internet) never ends well for anyone.

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photo 1 (2)2.Understand where the person is coming from.

This person is entitled to his/her opinions and concerns.  It is up to you to understand and address the concerns.  Find common ground and ensure them that you aren’t so different from one another.  Maybe you are a mother or father, just like they are?  Perhaps a school board member of a soccer coach?  Find commonality.

3. Keep it simple.

You could go on and on about why your farm adopts certain practices, but too much detail can be confusing and stir up more questions and emotions.  An outsider who does not see what happens on a farm everyday may find your specific details difficult to understand.

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4. Know when to end it.

If things get out of hand, if name-calling begins, just stop.  Be open to those who have genuine questions and concerns, but know when to draw the line.   If you are having the conversation online, you have the ability to moderate the conversation.  It is your choice to ban and delete anyone or any comment that you deem inappropriate. Many activists don’t care what you have to share and are just using your page as a platform to spread their views.

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If your conversation is face-to-face, agree to disagree and politely excuse yourself.  It is a waste of your time to try to change the view of someone who is anti-whatever.  Remember who your audience is and who you are trying to convey your message to.  It is the folks who consume your product that you want to share with; put your time and energy in with them.

5. Don’t give up.

Agvocating and sharing your story can be frustrating and there WILL  be people who will make you want to pull your hair out.  Don’t give up.  I guarantee that for every negative response you get, there are ten more positive responses.  It can be easy to focus on the negative comments, but don’t forget about all the folks who appreciate what you do.  Most importantly, FARM ON!

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If Your Belly is Full, Give Thanks.

These days it seems that just about everybody has an opinion on how their food should be grown and produced. Organic vs. Conventional, GMO vs. non-GMO. etc.  With so many food buzzwords, misconceptions and various opinions, debates tend to get heated. I often wonder if folks would have less to say about the food on their plate if their bellies weren’t so full.  I am not saying that you shouldn’t care about how your food is grown or that you don’t have the right to choose.  I think it is extremely important to understand how your food is grown and visit farms whenever you have the opportunity!  But, can we be honest and say that some food requests get a little ridiculous?  “Excuse me, I would like the chicken parmesan, but only if the chicken is free-range and organic.  I would like the noodles to be gluten-free and the cheese to come from cattle that haven’t been treated with hormones.  Oh, and could you tell me if the chicken was on an all vegetarian diet?”.  Seriously people, just eat the damn chicken.   If we offered the hungry children of Africa a meal of chicken and corn, do you think they would care if the chicken was free-range or if the corn was derived from a genetically modified seed?  Probably not.

 These sound like topics of luxury, discussed by a nation who pushes away from the table with a full belly.

– Ashwani Gujral, CEO of an Integrated poultry company in India.

Sure, it would be great if everyone could just grow their own food in whatever way they desire, but that is not reality.  Not everyone has the time, land or resources to grow their own corn or milk their own cow.  The reality is that the population is quickly growing and we have more and more mouths to feed each day.  In the U.S. alone, 15.8 million children live in households where they are unable to consistently access enough nutritious food necessary for a healthy life.  Estimates indicate the world’s population will reach 9 billion by 2050, including middle class growth of 3 billion.  The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicts a 60-percent increase in demand for meat, milk and eggs by 2050.  More than ever, we need farmers.

How lucky are we to live in a country that not only has plenty of readily available foods, but also a variety of choices?!  You want a free-range turkey this year for your Thanksgiving feast, well by golly, get yourself one!  Need some fresh tomatoes in January?  Perhaps some strawberries for a Valentines Day dessert?  Not a problem here in the United States!  It is awesome that at any time of the year we have access to a plethora of affordable foods, whether they are in season or not.  I hope you never stop caring about where your food comes from, but the next time you feel the urge to bite a farmer’s head off because he/she chooses to utilize farming practices that you don’t quite understand or agree with, can you just remember that your belly is full.  Full of foods that many don’t have access to or will ever be able to experience.  We may not all agree, but be respectful to each other.

Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.

-Phil Robertson, Duck Dynasty

Know that farmers are doing their best to ethically produce a safe, quality product for your table   This year I am thankful for my full belly and my right to choose.

Cows, Antibiotics, and You

See this happy, healthy cow chowing down on some TMR?  Well, last week she wasn’t so happy…or healthy; she had mastitis.  Mastitis is an inflammatory response to infection causing visibly abnormal milk (clots, off-color). As the extent of the inflammation increases, changes in the udder (swelling, heat, pain, redness) may also occur. Mastitis is caused any bacterial or mycotic organism that can invade tissue and cause infection.  We do our best to keep our cows and their environment clean and dry, but occasionally mastitis occurs.  Especially in the summer months when warmer weather allows bacteria to grow and spread at a more rapid rate.  On average, we have a couple of cases of mastitis per month; some more or less severe than others.  Either way, it is no fun.  Last week, this gal was in rough shape and we were working extra hours to fight the infection and make her feel better.

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Luckily, we had antibiotics to help us.  We use antibiotics only when warranted and find them to be a great tool when it comes to a sick animal.  Antibiotics, plenty of fluids and a little TLC brought this cow back to health and I am happy to report that she is back to her old self!  Without antibiotics to fight the infection, I am not sure if this girl would have made it.

Do you have to worry about the antibiotics given to this cow invading your dairy products? Absolutely not.  When a cow is given antibiotics, she is identified with a colored leg band and her milk is discarded.  Her milk cannot and will not enter the general milk supply.  This is a mandatory practice on every dairy farm.   On our dairy farm, we identify cows treated with antibiotics by placing two pink leg bands around each hind leg and moving the cow into the hospital pen.  These leg bands signal to everyone on the farm that this cow must  be milked into a bucket so that the milk can be disposed.  The leg bands will stay on the  cow and her milk will continue to be dumped until her milk tests negative for antibiotics.  We sample the cow’s milk and test it using this handy, little contraption and special test strips.

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Now, what if someone makes a mistake?  What if someone has their head in their butt and milks the cow with the rest of the herd? You still don’t need to worry.  Every load of milk that leaves our dairy is tested for antibiotics when it reaches the creamery.  If the load tests positive for antibiotics, the ENTIRE load of milk will be disposed of and the farm will be out a lot of money.  No dairy farmer wants to lose thousands of dollars or produce an unsafe product, so farmers take antibiotics very seriously.  We use antibiotics when necessary and follow the label’s instructions.  Farmers use antibiotics to help sick animals, while still producing a safe, quality product. Farmers are extremely careful when it comes to cows, antibiotics and you.  Long story-short, all dairy products are safe and nutritious.  No matter what your choice is in the dairy case, know it is safe.