There is so much out there in the world of health in fitness. Eat this, don’t eat this. Workout this way, don’t do this. As a mother wanting the best nutrition for her children, dairy products , especially milk, was a concern for me when I started to give my daughter cow’s milk. Should I buy organic or non organic? What about antibiotics in the milk? What about these hormones that I read about? And if you buy Market Fresh, Aldi or Prairie Farms milk, you will especially want to read on because this is exactly the place from where your milk comes.
I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Kuehnert Dairy Farm located just outside of Fort Wayne, Indiana. This farm is a 6th generation dairy farm. The experience was incredible: I milked a cow, I saw how milk went from the farm to the grocery and even met a calf who was born that day!
We were showed around and taught by the ever so knowledgable dietitian, dairy farmer and mom of two: Sarah. Although she is a Purdue grad, (Indiana fan, here) Sarah’s knowledge was only unmatched by her passion for her farm, her cows, and providing good, quality nutrition.
Disclaimer: This post is paid by the Indiana Family of Farmers. Although they are paying me to post about my trip. All the opinions are mine.
The cows live in an all female barn where they always have food and water and a place to sleep. The stand on rubber and they sleep on sand. There are also sprinklers for when it gets over 74 degrees and Big Ass Fans (yes, that is the brand) that keep the flies off the cows.
A cow drinks 35-40 gallons of water per day and are fed a balanced diet of total mixed ration and they are also fed fruits and vegetables. They even have this handy dandy robot they call “Harry” that pushes the feed up to the cows so it is easy for them to get.
A Cow’s Fitbit
As you may notice, these cows where necklaces: activity trackers. I like to think of this as the cow’s Fitbit because I am completely intrigued by this concept. These necklaces are just that: activity collars for the cows. This allows for the Kuehnert family members to monitor the activity of every single cow in the barn. It will send an alter to their phones if the cow is not taking enough steps, standing up or signs of mastitis. The activity trackers even send notifications when the cow has not been milked. Imagine getting a text at 2am saying, “Bessie only milked one time today.” Then you have to get out of bed, somehow find Bessie and go herd her to the milking robot. Life on a farm is not easy.
These cows are milked by a robot- it was incredible! As a breastfeeding mom, I likened it to a mega breast pump- and I mean mega! The robot machine is an innovative agriculture solution and allows the cows to choose when they want to be milked and they do not have to leave their environment.
When the cow “feels full”, just like a human mom, she will make her way to the milking robot. She will stand in there, get milked and even get bathed after every time. Yes, the robot washes the cow when finished. Nursing moms, how would you like that?!?! The robot also has a sensor to prevent from over or under milking the cow.
In 6.5 minutes the cow can produce 35 pounds of milk! A cow can be milked up to 6 times per day- it is her choice. On average, the cows on this particular farm milk 3.2 per day- you do the math!!!
Once the cow is milked, the milk itself never touched by human hands or exposed to air. The milk is tested before it is batched with the other milk. Kuehnert Farms is a part of the Prairie Farms Co-Op and 100% of their milk goes to Prairie Farms, which is just 15 minutes away from the farm. Milk that was produced this morning will probably be in your grocery store tomorrow- talk about fresh! Prairie Farms can be found in most local groceries and in Speedway gas station as well. They also do the off brand labeling for Aldi and Fresh Market (Target).
Prairie Farms does not allow artificial growth hormones in any of their milk. The farmers who are part of Prairie Farms Co-op take a pledge to not treat their cows with artificial growth hormones and are paid a higher premium for Rbst free milk. In fact, they even have random field reps who will show up unannounced to monitor for this. If an inspector was to find evidence of the usage of Rbst, then that farmer would be kicked out of Prairie Farms immediately and would have to find another company to buy their milk for processing. Rbst is a natural growth hormone that help cows produce milk and since all cows have a small amount of this naturally, there is no way to test for it. However, some farmers give their cows extra- the farmers in the Prairie Farms Co-Op do not.
And what about antibiotics since that is the big talk? None of that either. All Prairie Farms milk (& dairy products) are antibiotic free. This does not mean that the cow has never had an antibiotic: if a cow is sick, just like a human, they treat the cow. The cow’s milk cannot be used until it is free from antibiotics.
I know you are thinking, “well how do we know if the farmer allows milk with antibiotics to be sent off for processing?” Farmers do not want to even chance this happening. The milk is tested for antibiotics and then it is put in the milk truck and combined with milk from other farms. If your milk comes back positive for antibiotics, the whole truck goes down the drain. As a mom, I know what it feels like to have my milk go down the drain, it is like pouring liquid gold down the drain- to the farmers, it is money down the drain. If you were the farmer who provided that milk, you have to pay for yours and the other farmers milk- that is a lot of milk and you better have a good insurance policy! If they do this twice in 5 years, that dairy farmer will get shutdown.
Organic vs. Non Organic Milk
This is the question you all have been awaiting. This is why you skimmed all the way through my post to decide if you should by organic or non organic milk. I am not here to tell you what to do: just to tell you what I learned and I will let you make the decision of what is best for you and your family. I learned that Kuehnert Farm is a non organic farm and their practices are all natural.
I have also learned that when it comes to milk, the term organic refers to the farm management practices and not the milk itself. All milk is tested for antibiotics (see last paragraph under “milk”). Prairie Farms milk is all tested for growth hormones as well.
Organic milk is ultra pasteurized which is why it often times has a longer shelf life than non organic.
Other Interesting Facts:
- Prairie Farms has 750 farms as a part of their co-op and they are only in the Midwest.
- Dairy cows are a little calmer than beef cattle
- Dairy cows are skinnier because they are using everything to make their milk. Similar to nursing moms who lose weight when nursing, right?
- There is a vet that comes every other week who specializes in dairy to check on the cows. The vet will also come when he is needed.
- Farmers will work with a nutritionist to feed for higher butter fat and higher protein because Prairie Farms will give them a higher quality check.
- Prairie Farms milk also provides the milk for the off label: Aldi & Market Fresh (Target). So Kuehnert Farms provides the milk to Prairie Farms and Prairie Farms puts it in your grocery!
- Watch this video for you and your munchkins for a great explanation of milk from start to finish.
I have a new appreciation for dairy farmers- for farmers in general. I was so impressed by the care for these cows. The Kuehnerts treated these cows as they were a part of their families. They get up in the middle of the night, they know which cow is which, and they truly want to provide the best milk (and dairy products) they can.
If you are a Hoosier, next time you are in the Fort Wayne area, make a visit to the Kuehnerts Farm, or keep up with their Facebook page for details to their Fall Festival: a fun, family event for all.
Your turn- tell me something you learned!
Organic or non organic milk in your house?