Friday, October 19, 2012

Where the Cows Come Home

Sometimes you get a glimpse into the rural Americana of yore. My friend Paige's small dairy is just such a place, a place worth preserving. One of the few remaining small scale dairies in the United states. At the end of a dirt road, way out in the country, behind a garage full of antique cars and a steel building, rusting a little on the edges, is a little dairy started by her grandparents thirty ago.
Here you can find Jerseys, Holsteins, and a few cows that are crosses between the two. Here, unlike most American dairies, the land has been in the family for years, the infant cows are kept on site and dine on real cow's milk, instead of formula. Here the cows get to frolic in green grass and enjoy pasture chow. Here my friend dreams about expanding her business to selling farm fresh cheese, butter, yogurt, and kefir. 
Here three little boys dart around on their bikes and chase kite strings, dragon flies, and each other when their mom comes twice a day to do the milking. Here throngs of preschoolers and homeschool children get to gather to learn a real-life lesson of where their milk comes from.

"Dog". My one year old daughter greets the fuzzy creature before her with the only animistic noun she knows, while her one year old buddy leans in at eye level towards another baby cow who will likely lick his face. "Mama, do baby cows come out their mama's butts?" my three year old asks, prompting a discussion about birth while he chases a chicken behind a tree.

The parlor. Down in the pit.
We look at the large tank on the outside of the dairy that pumps in feed snacks through pipes on the ceiling for the cows during their daily milkings. The thirty milking cows produce milk that goes into the 1,250 gallon tank which is drained every other day by the milk truck who takes it to the milk cooperative where it will go to Oklahoma companies to make milk, cream, ice cream, and cheese. 

We go into the parlor, the section where the cows come to get milked. The stalls are in a herring bone pattern, coming out like ribs from a central spine. The farmers show us the lower section, the pit, where they go down where the udders are at eye level. The kids are fascinated by the tubes and wires. Pipes bring water and bleach for sterilization, corn for the cows, and then other pipes take the milk out from the milk cups. Here the cows enter on both sides of the U and go into their individual stalls. Cups about the length of a hand are placed on each udder. The feed comes in and the milk goes out. And then the cows, with a tap on the foreleg, (or in our case, the kids) run down the alley on the back slope towards the pasture- where the cows come home.  

Where the cows come home

The cows weren't the only ones giving out kisses...

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