Happy National Farmer’s Day! Although dairy farmers certainly deserve the day off, they will instead celebrate by caring for their land and animals – just as they do 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The kind of hard work and absolute devotion dairy farmers have to their animals and land is something that is best communicated through visiting a farm. I can tell you what dairy farming is like, but we can show you so much more on the farm.
You can see first-hand that dairy cattle have a whole team of caretakers even beyond the farmer. They have their own nutritionist and veterinarian to ensure they get exactly what they need to be healthy and strong. They even get pedicures so that they can comfortably walk to the feed trough between naps – naps that, by the way, are taken on deep-bedded sand (yes, just like at the beach!) with fans and sprinklers to keep them cool when the weather is warm. Providing such great care to their animals is good for the cows, the farm, and the planet.
Speaking of the planet, dairy farmers have been committed to sustainable dairy farming since before sustainability was trendy. One gallon of water can be recycled up to four times on the farm and the dairy industry contributes less than 2% of the total U.S. greenhouse gas footprint. Due to innovative farming and feed practices, a gallon of milk in 2017 required 30% less water, 21% less land, and 19% smaller carbon footprint than in 2007. Dairy farmers even use byproducts from other industries that otherwise would have gone to landfills. For example, as we drink orange juice, dairy cows eat the citrus pulp that remains after the juice is removed from the fruit. Cows are experts at turning things that humans can’t or don’t want to eat into milk.
Dairy farmers work hard every day to ensure that their animals are well cared for and in turn, their cows provide our families with a safe, nutritious, and delicious supply of milk. To learn more about dairy farming, watch The Dairy Truth documentary. Then take a virtual or in-person dairy farm tour to see it up close!
Dr. Amanda Stone is an Associate Professor and Extension Dairy Specialist at Mississippi State University (50% research, 35% extension, and 15% teaching). She grew up in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, and went to the University of Findlay in Ohio to earn her B.S. in Animal Sciences and Biology. She then completed her M.S. and Ph.D. in Animal Sciences from the University of Kentucky. She is an author of 19 peer-reviewed scientific manuscripts, 2 book chapters, 60 peer-reviewed abstracts and conference papers, and 16 peer-reviewed Extension publications. She and her collaborators have received over $4 million in grant funding since 2016 with her research and extension work falling into two main areas: dairy cattle heat stress and human farm stress. She and her husband (Stephen) have two sons: 7-year-old (Lincoln) and 4-year-old (Sawyer).