--- College dietician students have ‘dairy good time’ at local dairy farm.

When an employee of the American Dairy Association contacted Alyssa Holter about giving a tour of her family’s dairy farm, at first, she was a little nervous. “We have never actually done a tour of our farm for anyone other than our friends who stop by every once in a while, so to have the opportunity to show people outside the industry what dairy farming is all about seemed a little frightening.”

So on May 26th when a group of student dieticians from Ohio University showed up at Holter’s Holtein Farms in Meigs County, OH, the Holter’s got their chance to help the industry share the good word of dairy farming.

When they arrived, the famous first words of “It smells out here!” were said by a few students, as is the usual reactions to most outsiders experiencing a farm for the first time.

But as the group made their way down to the office, where they all put on plastic boots as a bio-security measure, their moods lightened and they became very excited about what was to come.
The tour, being led by 4th generation dairy farmer Alyssa Holter, started with a trip to the calf barn, where the students got see the calves, one being as young as 2 days old, and also a batch of baby kittens.

“We wanted to start the tour where it made sense to start it, with the babies. Not only did we explain the process of raising the calves, but we explained why we did a lot of things that we do, including the issue of taking the calves away from their mothers when they are first born,” said Alyssa.

On all dairy farms, the farmers take the babies away from their mothers, usually a couple of hours after birth, which is one issue that seems to be a big concern for animal lovers everywhere. “Taking the babies away from their mothers is a safety precaution for the baby. There are so many times when we don’t get the babies in time, and they end up with a cast on their leg because the mothers have accidentally stepped on them, or they get infections from sucking on their mother’s teats, which haven’t been cleaned in months because they are on maternity leave in the pasture, ” said Jan Holter, the farm’s calf care-taker.

After learning all about the newborns’ diets, they moved on to the next age level of cows; the heifers. “We have over 300 cows here on the farm, and half of them are heifers between the ages of three months and two years. We put them out to pasture nine months out of the 12, and every single one is vaccinated once a year before they go out,” explained Alyssa after being asked if the cows received any type of medication.

As the tour went on, the students learned about the breeding process, and how the gestation period for a cow is handled over the nine months. They also learned about each cow’s feed rations, and the exact ingredients that go into all of the different feeds for each age group of cow. They even were told about the farm’s own nutritionist that specifies exactly what the cows should eat. Ed Holter, co-owner/operator of the farm tells the students what he tells everyone else that goes to the farm looking for answers, “Well as you can see, the cows have a more balanced diet than humans do.”

And the truth of the matter is, they really do. The milk cows are fed corn silage twice a day, and hay twice a day, but they also have another couple of luxuries that humans definitely don’t have. “The milk cows are out on pasture in the warm months, but they also are allowed to come in at any point of the day and get grain from the automatic feeders,” says Ed.

The automatic feeders work like this: every milk cow is wearing a collar with their number and a responder attached to it. When they walk into one of the 10 feeder stalls, the responder is scanned and read by the main computer system that is yards away in the main office. The computer then ‘tells’ the feed bin what kind of grain the cow gets, and how much grain the cow gets depending on how much milk she gives in the parlor. And the parlor just happened to be the next stop.

“The last part of this tour really brings everything that they have seen up to this point together. Because everything we do for these cows is repaid to us in the parlor,” said Alyssa.

As the students walked down into the parlor pit, they were amazed at how advanced it was. There are meters on every milk stanchion that records how many pounds each cow gives. And on this farm, the cows are milked twice a day, every day, with no days off-ever. “Another point that we really want to get across to people is that it never stops. The cows need milked year round- even on Christmas and New Year mornings. And this goes for every dairy farm in the world,” said Jan.

The last part of the tour was led by a Broughton Foods representative. She told them everything they needed to know about the pasteurization process, as well as how well the milk is monitored from farm to store. Each milk truck is tested and tested again, and once it goes into the company’s line it is tested and monitored until it goes on the shelf, and even then it is watched closely by the store managers. And just when the students thought it couldn’t get any better, free ice cream bars and milk were passed out, compliments of Broughton Foods of Marietta, OH, which is where the Holter’s ship their milk to every other day.

When asked about what they learned that day, the students could not stop coming up with something new. And when Ed Holter was asked what he wanted the students to take with them, he responded, “the main thing we wanted them to learn, as well as everyone else out there, is where the milk comes from, and how hard everyone in the industry works to maintain that the milk is safe and that the cows are taken care of properly. And I am positive that we accomplished that today.”

For more information on dairy farming or the dairy industry as a whole, visit www.holtersholsteinfarms.com, www.broughtonfoods.com or a local dairy farm near you.

** So what did you think??? newsworthy???? anyway... I also need to remind everyone that JUNE IS DAIRY MONTH!!!! look for updates on our Facebook group of "The love for cows is growing and growing and growing and...." :) have a great week everyone!!!! :) :)

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Comment by Godofredo Alba on June 30, 2009 at 4:03pm
Comment by Ryan Curtis on June 18, 2009 at 8:48am
Good story! Thanks for sharing your experience. Dairy tours is one way to help improve the dairy industry's image. Now every time those students hear negative things on the radio, TV or online, they will know that there are good people out there and will be less likely to believe everything that is told to them. Well done!


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