June is National Dairy Month | TheFencePost.com

June is National Dairy Month

Richard Snell
Barton County Extension Agent

June is dairy month and I would like to take time to salute those who get up before the crack of dawn and have to be there 7 days a week to milk those cows.

I have to admit I have only milked a cow once or twice in my life, even though I grew up on a farm. We, like many people back in the 1960s and before that, had one old Jersey cow on the farm that we milked by hand to supply our own needs. Jerseys were nice because they were smaller in body weight and didn’t eat as much as some breeds. Also, they gave less milk which was more than the cats and us could consume anyway. Best of all, they had high butterfat content which was great for cream, butter and such.

About the time I started to grade school, we got rid of the cow and started buying milk at our neighbor’s, the Campbells. They had whole bottled milk, you could see the cream right on top. It was fun to go over there and buy it right from the dairy. That was nearly 50 years ago when we started buying milk there and I am glad to say that dairy is still in business. Carrol is in the business these days. When I was a kid, it was his dad, Harold.

I also had a friend of mine, Doug Miller, whose parents had one big Holstein cow. I would occasionally stay overnight at his house and we would go out and milk the cow and had great delight squirting milk directly into the mouth of some thirsty kitten.

Dairy farms are getting few and far between in this neck of the woods. As a matter of fact we only have one dairy in Barton County, the Hiss Dairy just west of Great Bend. A little over a year ago, the Hiss family dairy, Hiss Inc. was recognized by Kansas Farmer magazine and K-State as the Kansas Dairy Family of the Year.

How much has the dairy business changed in the 22 years I have been in Barton County? When I came here, the Hiss Dairy was milking about 200 cows. There were considered a big dairy by mostly because the average herd at that time was about 40-60 cows. There were very few with 100 cows.

Since they have built a new milking parlor, several free stall barns and a state of the art waste management system, while growing to 400 cows.

Today, they are considered a small dairy because most of the smaller dairies have quit milking and the new ones that have sprung up all have 1,000 cows up to 10,000 cows.

Over the years, dairy families have been some of our best extension supporters and clientele. They are people with a strong work ethic, who put in a lot of hours but always had good cash flow and made decent money. All of that has changed. They still “work their rear ends off” with long hours but the cost of feed and the relatively low milk price is causing them to lose huge amounts of money. It has really gotten bad in the last year, but probably 7 out of the last 10 years, milk prices have dipped below the cost of production.

As if that isn’t bad enough, dairy producers are being bombarded by bad press from vegetarian and anti-animal agriculture groups. Their sentiment these days is don’t eat dairy products they are fattening and contain lots of hormones.

The truth is, like the global warming hype, there are only a few grains of truth in any of that. Come on people, like you learned in grade school – milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream and other dairy products taste good and are good for you. They are a terrific source of calcium, protein and several vitamins.

When it comes to the story about hormones in milk, let me set you straight. Some dairies do give hormones and antibiotics to their cows. The truth is, we take them ourselves. Many of us take antibiotics when we are sick and every antibiotic given to a cow has a length of time (if any) that the milk can’t be used and dairyman follow that. Secondly, many dairies have stopped using the hormone. By 2009, in the United States, consumer desire for “no artificial growth hormones” caused a domino-effect causing most milk products to become BST-free.

Bovine somatotropin (abbreviated bST and BST) is a protein hormone produced in the pituitary glands of cattle. It is also called bovine growth hormone, or BGH. It is naturally occurring in the cow, but for awhile they injected extra amounts to increase milk production. It was labeled safe, but consumer demand is stopping its use. That’s fine, I believe that we should provider the consumer with what they want.

By the way, none of our foods are hormone free, even vegetables, such as broccoli, naturally contain hormones. Hormones are not necessarily a bad thing, they are God-given.

Even though I like broccoli also, did you know that it takes 3 cups of cooked broccoli to equal the calcium in one cup of milk? Did you realize that an ounce of hard cheese contains 8 grams of protein, while a 5-inch hot dog contains only 5 grams. An 8 ounce serving of low-fat plain yogurt contains 490 milligrams of potassium or about the same as one banana.

Milk remains of the most economical sources of protein and calcium, which are important for the growth and development of bones and teeth and at only about 25 cents per 8 ounce glass. Milk really does, do a body good!

So, thank a dairyman today and behold the power of cheese!

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