Intern Amber’s First Visit to the Dairy Farm

by guest blogger Amber Richardson, a dietetic intern from Purdue University. 

Have you ever seen a cow up close? Until a week ago, I had not, and I am sitting here still thinking about how big they are!

Kelsay Farms in Whiteland has Holstein cows (the most recognizable with their black and white coloring) and each cow weighs about 1500 pounds. I was lucky enough to see a three hour old calf and was shocked to learn they already weighed in around 100 pounds at birth!

Cows are milked 3 times a day by machine. I had heard some misconceptions before I visited the farm about whether cows enjoyed being milked and how long it takes, but in reality, cows are ready to be milked.  The cows’ udders are treated with iodine before the machine is attached and the machine knows when the cow has been completely milked, automatically detaching at that point. Each cow is tagged so the amount of milk produced can be tracked. The cow has an ankle bracelet on that tracks how many steps the cow takes as well as how much they lay down. This is helpful because if a cow is not walking as much and is laying down more than usual, maybe the cow is not feeling well. If a cow is sick and needs medicine, they are kept in a separate area, are milked last and that milk goes straight down the drain.

milking parlor
When the cows are not being milked, they are kept in their pen area where they have food available at all times. Each cow eats about 100 pounds of food a day! The farm has a truck that helps measure how much of each ingredient needs to be included in the food for the cows.

When the cows are not eating, there is a waterbed area for them to rest. In this area they also have fans, water misters, and the area is completely covered to provide shade. When I walked into the area from the sun I could tell the difference in temperature. Cows do not like hot weather so they keep the area nice and cool for them.

I was very impressed with this dairy farm and how humane the whole process is. During my visit I did not hear one cow moo, which is good because cows moo when something is wrong. It was also nice seeing the workers interact with the cows and to see how gentle they are with them. If you have not had a chance to visit a dairy farm, I would definitely recommend it!