A dairy farm is not in the business of making milk. Say that out loud to yourself. A dairy farm is not in the business of making milk. A dairy farm may sell milk, but it is not in the business of making milk. That’s the cow’s job. Interestingly enough, some people do not believe that is true.
As caregivers of animals, a dairy producer’s main job is to care for the cows. Happy cows produce a lot of milk, and a lot of milk keeps a dairy efficient. It’s funny talking to consumers and listening to their concerns about cows. They think that all we care about is the bottom line when it’s really the contrary. Yes, of course we care about making a living, but that is only after we give our primary energy to all of our animals’ well-being and that of our environment.
It is interesting to think about, but milk is merely the by-product of happy, healthy cows. We could not sell enough milk to stay in business if our cows were not happy and healthy. It’s a hard pill to swallow for those who think the worst of dairies, but we all know the truth. Healthy cows produce nutritious, wholesome milk.
So, for the sake of those who are not privy to all the ways we as producers pamper our cows, let me name just a small list of things that we do. (Taking a deep breath. . . ) We stay up all night to help birth them; work all day to feed them; run ragged trying to clean them; sanitize surfaces and pipelines; fix fences and equipment essential for a cow's well-being; study new techniques to help them; clean everything again; grow feed; harvest feed; install fans, misters, and soakers for cooling; buy jackets for calves when it’s cold; clean more stuff; fluff and clean their beds every day; add new bedding to make it softer; and eventually we will end up in the milk barn and start cleaning again — but who is keeping track? (And exhale . . .)
I know I left out a whole host of things, but you get the gist.
A dairy’s purpose is to care for its cows. Only after that will the relationship yield the most perfect product: milk.
Tyler Ribeiro is a fourth-generation dairy farmer born and raised in California. He is currently partners with his father at Rib-Arrow Dairy in Tulare where they proudly ship their milk to Land O’Lakes. Tyler is actively involved in the dairy industry, holding leadership roles in various organizations locally and across the United States.