Kids often wonder where their food comes from, especially as they start recognizing that what appears on their plate doesn’t actually grow on shelves at the local supermarket. As parents, we know that the milk, cheese, yogurt and other dairy foods our families enjoy come from milk produced by cows at dairy farms. Beyond that, how do we answer the questions our kids have about dairy farms?
Unless you’re a parent who grew up on a dairy farm or you know someone who runs one, you’re probably not familiar with daily life on dairy farms. And, unless you have visited dairy farms in Michigan or across the country, you may not have in-depth answers to your child’s questions.
We found a fun way to satisfy your kids’ curiosities and learn a little more about where your family’s dairy foods originate, too. And it doesn’t involve driving to a farm!
Over the past several years, Milk Means More has worked with Michigan dairy farmers to create virtual farm tours — and these tours are available for you and your family to watch at home. Different farms are featured, and each video offers plenty of chances to see and hear the cows and farmers in action.
Do calves play? Find out here!
Each video is designed to introduce your child to the life of cows, calves and farmers on some of the 1,200 family-owned dairy farms in Michigan. Through these farm tours, young kids can learn some interesting facts about what cows eat, where they live and how much milk they produce each day.
They can also watch the milking process and learn about how milking involves both farmers and technology.
On the World Milk Day Tour, for instance, Jolene Griffin, Director of Industry Relations at Milk Means More and a member of a Michigan dairy farm family, goes directly into her family farm’s calf barn in southwest Michigan to introduce viewers to a future milking herd through the “Cow Cam.”
She talks about the diet of young cows and shares how calves thrive on a specialized diet of corn, oats, alfalfa and vitamins and minerals, as well as water and milk — which is dispensed to each individual calf using specialized RFID technology.
She also highlights the enrichment experiences calves can enjoy — balls they can push or roll around — and how the calves are protected from extreme weather in sturdy barns.
And the videos aren’t just for elementary-aged children. For older kids, there’s an entire video series of virtual dairy farm tours for sixth- to 12th-grade students. Through this series, students learn about what goes into caring for calves and cows, how milk is collected from cows and how technology is used on dairy farms.
The series, called From Michigan Dairy Farmers to You, offers a great opportunity for older kids to see dairy farms as a Michigan industry and discover the many roles — from veterinarians to dairy nutritionists to truck drivers and, of course, farm families — that play a part in Michigan dairy production.
One fact: Michigan dairy is locally produced
One of the most important elements to learn about Michigan dairy is that it’s always local. Once the milk leaves the farm in refrigerated trucks, it heads directly to the approximately 90 dairy processing plants, where the milk is bottled or made into cheese, ice cream and dry powdered products.
In fact, each container of milk you can buy in Michigan can be identified by the 5-digit code that’s stamped right on the container, and the number 26 indicates that the milk was produced here in Michigan, according to Milk Means More.
There are so many more fun facts to learn about milk, dairy farming and Michigan dairy farms. Be sure to watch the virtual dairy farm tour videos and see what else you can learn about where your food comes from.
Learn more at Milk Means More. Visit milkmeansmore.org.