Farm to Table – Part One

Every morning, long before the sun rises, hundreds of Hoosier dairy farmers are already hard at work. Whether rain or shine or sleet or snow, they are unmatched in their commitment to their animals and the milk they produce.

Imagine the smell of feed in the morning, your feet squishing as you walk through mud and snow as you cross the road from the house to the barn. You’re bundled in layers, ready to milk your herd of cows while most of the world around you is still asleep.

With an average of close to 130 cows per farm, and more than 1100 farms across Indiana, Hoosier dairy farmers have a huge task. It’s not just a matter of milking the herd — it’s running a small business, ensuring the health of the cows, and delivering top-quality milk to Hoosier families.

Many of us who were not raised on a farm take holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Memorial Day for granted. Those are generally days off. Such is not the case for the dedicated Indiana dairy farmers. While milking a cow normally only takes about 10 minutes, the math shows a far greater responsibility — herds are milked 2-3 times a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. This is not to mention all of the daily responsibilities that come with running a business.

Beyond milking duties include cleaning and maintenance of the barns, cleaning the milking parlor and equipment, as well as taking care of the herd. Did we mention getting the kids on the bus to school?

Just think, much of this happens in the wee hours of the morning. By example, the first milking is usually around 3:30 a.m. Once milking is complete, the cows are brought back to the barn for a post-milking feast of nutrient-rich feed and rest time. The cows will return to the milking parlor around 3:30 p.m. for their second milking of the day.

In the midst of milking and feeding the cows, feeding and caring for the calves is also essential. With the colder temperatures, ensuring warmth for the newest members of the farm family is critical. Keeping the calf pens clean is a top priority, alongside nutrition and warmth.

Daily responsibilities vary and could include getting the ground prepped for planting, harvesting for feed, cleaning the parlor tanks and the parlor itself, all while following state and federal safety and health regulations to the letter.

Fitting it all into one day might seem like quite a bit of work, but it comes naturally to Indiana dairy farmers. Their passion for their herd and work is unparalleled.

In this eight-part blog series, we want to take you on a journey of how that nutritious glass of milk you’re drinking right now comes from cows in the heartland of America to your table. We want to show you not just a day, but a year in the life of a semi-fictional Hoosier dairy farm family.

You’ll get the pleasure of spending time on the fictional Morrison Dairy Farm, nestled in Southern Indiana. The nearly 1000-acre, self-sustaining farm is home to almost 300 dairy cows, 5 employees, a dog named Olaf, and the Morrison family. This sprawling farm is in the rolling hills north of Brown County.

Farming is in this family’s blood — Dan, his wife Julie, and their two children, Jack (12) and Alyssa (16). Dan’s great-grandparents started the farm more than a century ago. He grew up on farms and it only seemed right to continue the family’s legacy. The Morrison family is very active in their local community, with Jack playing soccer and Alyssa running cross-country at their middle school and high school respectively.

We’ll introduce you to the farm way of life, the process, and the benefits Indiana dairy farmers provide, including their contributions to the statewide economy.

So, sit back, relax, and get ready for a trip to the farm like you’ve never experienced before!

Check back for Part Two, where we’ll introduce you to farmer Dan Morrison and learn more about winter on the farm!