Ellen's Dish on Dairy: Farmers Behind the Food

Apr 12, 2021

I didn’t know much about farming when I started my job here at the Dairy Council and I never really gave any thought about the farmers behind the food that I was eating.    I grew up in the suburbs of St. Louis and I had grandparents and many aunts, uncles and cousins who lived on farms so I had some understanding of farmers and farm life.  But after working on behalf of local dairy farmers for 10+ years now, I am grateful for the knowledge I have gained about dairy farming and proud to say I know the farmers behind the milk and dairy foods I eat.

In today’s world, many people are voicing concerns over the agricultural industry and farmers are often misunderstood or falsely accused of wrong-doing.  I can’t speak for all farmers but I am here to tell you that dairy farmers take the utmost care of their cows.  Dairy farming is a business.  And farmers, like “typical” businessmen, want to run a successful business. Dairy farmers do that by raising healthy, happy cows. Farmers are paid by how much milk they produce on the farm and the quality of the milk.  And because healthy, happy cows produce more milk, cow comfort is a top priority for farmers so that they can produce the highest quality milk as possible.

Farmers care for their cows in many ways.  Whether it’s installing misters and fans when it’s hot, changing their sand bedding on a regular basis for comfortable sleeping, using a robotic food pusher so cows always have fresh “bowl” of food to eat, or installing a back roller for a feel-good massage, farmers do what it takes for a happy herd.  In addition, they work with veterinarians and cow nutrition specialist on a regular basis to ensure the health of the cows and calves. 

Care is also displayed in their work ethic.  Dairy farmers are some of the hardest working men and women out there. Unlike many businesses, dairy farms run 24 hours a day, 7 days week, 365 days a year.  Farmers don’t get weekends and holidays off like most of us as cows have to milked every day, 2-3 times a day!  And the hours they work are crazy - many farmers get up in the middle of the night at 2 or 3 in the morning to milk the cows.  In addition to milking the cows, farmers grow crops to feed the animals.  It’s a time-consuming, labor-intensive job and it takes a special kind of person to do that kind of work.

The end-goal of a farmer’s dedication to cows is to produce quality food for consumers.  So whether it’s ice cold milk in your glass, cheese on your pizza, yogurt in your breakfast smoothie, or ice cream on a hot summer day, you can be sure that the farmers behind the dairy foods you eat are good people, taking great care of their cows!

By Ellen Wheeler, Program Coordinator



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