If you haven’t been on a dairy farm in the last few years you are missing out! Dairy farmers are in one of the most volatile industries, from monthly changing milk prices to fluctuating feed prices. As fast as those things change, advancements in the dairy industry continue at a rapid pace as well. While all the new advancements may not be seen across the entire industry you may see things such as robotic milking systems, robotic feed pushers and automated calf feeders. The best way for you to find out whats happening in the dairy industry of your state is…to visit with a dairyman or woman! Many farmers enjoy visiting about their farms and giving tours so I encourage you to get in contact with a local dairy and set a date! Here are five tips for visiting a dairy farm.
1. Call ahead to set up a tour. Dairy farms are very busy seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. Though farmers and their employees may enjoy showing you around be sure to ask for the best day and time to visit. This way they have time to show you around and you can ask a lot of questions or maybe even take pictures.
2. Wear clothes and shoes that can get dirty! This may seem like an obvious suggestion to some and a silly suggestion to others, but for the best tour experience I would say be ready to get dirty! Dairy farmers do their best to keep things clean for the health and comfort of their herd, but cows are cows so there will be manure. Extra tip: don’t set a hot date right after your tour unless it is with the dairyman or woman hehe!
3. Ask a lot of questions. Get the most out of your tour by asking a lot of questions. As a past tour guide, I loved answering any and all questions posed by tourists visiting my family’s dairy or other dairies that I have worked on. There is no silly question and the best place to find out how farmers and their employees treat their animals is by seeing the dairy and asking them personally right there on the spot.
4. Let a calf suck on your fingers. This is a hilarious moment for most people and brings a lot of joy to young kids. Ask to visit the calves on the dairy and be sure to let them have a go at your finger(s). They won’t bite you as bovines only have bottom teeth with a dental palate on top. After you do this ask to put your finger(s) inside a milking unit to compare the mouth of the calf and a milk machine.
5. See the birth of a calf. This might be a challenge on a smaller dairy farm, but cows can calve at any time of the day. Ask the dairyman or woman if there are any cows calving so that you can see a new life come in to the world. It is a miraculous experience you won’t forget! It’s also a great way for kids to learn about mother nature.
Dairymen and women across the United States work hard to help give their dairy cattle a great life which in turn feeds you and I. Nothing is more important that the comfort and care of their animals which they often put before themselves and their families. How can you know this is true? Ask them if they have Christmas dinner and open their Christmas presents before the animals are cared for? Ask them if they rest on their birthday? Ask them if they take sick days? You might be surprised by their answers. So please take time to visit a local dairy and ask lots of questions from the folks who can tell you the truth about animal welfare on dairy farms. Happy touring and be sure to let me know when and where you toured a dairy in the comments section below!