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California Dairy Tour

California Dairy Tour with Go Gingham
Hello darling, you look moooo-velous!

When I was invited on the California Dairy Tour, I had no idea what type of “experience trip” it would be or what to expect. I knew there would be milk involved (of course) but I didn’t know I’d get to milk a cow, see a calf being born, and hug a cow! All this took place in 3-days packed with ice cream eating, milk drinking, and lots of “cheese pairings.” As I learned, cheese can be paired with just about anything.

California Dairy Tour with Go Gingham

Our California Dairy Tour began with a tour of a typical dairy farm in Northern California. Heading to the dairy farm, I noticed the lack of green grass in the fields. This got me wondering….

Why aren’t the cows out in a field of green?

Here in the lush and green state of Oregon, there are cows out in the green, grassy fields. That’s what I see when we’re driving by them but I’m not actually sure they’re dairy cows. We also have a lot of rain in the state – in case you hadn’t heard – so there’s no shortage of green, grassy fields.

California Dairy Tour with Go Gingham
Cow hugging and milking – good times!

When we arrived at the Queresma dairy (which is a third-generation family farm), the first thing I noticed was the lack of green grass. I know from having backyard chickens that animals like to munch on green things and it’s good for them. (Well, it’s good for all of us to munch on greens!) I was getting ready to ask why the cows weren’t out in the fields roaming in the green pastures when it was explained to me.

Dairy farms need efficiency and greenery – combined

The dairy farms (of which over 99% are family owned) bring the “green” to the cows. The cows’ food consists of almond hulls (from the local almond growers), corn, hay, and alfalfa. For efficiency, the cows are kept close to the milking station machine and then the food is brought to them. They have plenty of space to roam and because it’s very sunny, they also have shade.

Ray and Sue and their cows
Ray and Sue talking cows – and little baby calves – so cute! It looks like Rudolph!

The cows also have lots of room depending on their needs. When cows are giving birth, are new mamas, or there’s a baby calf learning to walk, the cows have a separate area just for them. (This sort of reminded me of “The Red Tent” and gave me a good feeling about these dairy farmers!)

Keeping the cows close means they can be milked regularly and on a schedule rather than having to chase them down and round them up from the fields. The cows are brought into a large milking area that rotates while they’re milked and then they’re sent back outside to play. And visit. They’re ladies after all and I know they had a lot to say about us.

Where’s all the mooooo-ing?

Another thing that struck me was how quiet it was. The cows weren’t mooing and making lots of noise. Having taught my kids when they were younger, “What do the cows say?” Moooooo! I was expecting some moos. But, cows who are happy and calm are quiet. They’re quiet and they like it quiet, too. We were told to not talk loudly around them – especially near the “The Red Tent” area of calf birthing.

California Dairy Tour with Go Gingham
Hi there, Bessie, how’s your day going?

After our tour around the dairy the farm, we were invited to Ray and Sue Quaresma’s home for a lunch made with fresh ingredients from around the region – including cheese and milk from the local creameries. It was a delicious meal that we shared with experts from the California Dairy Industry.

What I really liked about getting a better understanding of a California dairy farm is the care and compassion I saw when farmers spoke of their cows. They spoke of them as actual living creatures, not just simply animals who produced a commodity for them. It totally changed my view of what a large production dairy farm would be like. Much like how I think of our backyard chickens as, “pets with benefits,” Sue Quaresma shared with me that she thinks of her cows as her, “pets with benefits.” Now, if they’d rename the birthing area, “The Red Tent” we should be all set.

Have you ever milked a cow? Have you ever been to a dairy farm?

Go Gingham related links:

Composting tips – add richness to your soil with scraps from the kitchen
How to invite bees to your garden – we really need bees
5 spots to start a garden – even in small yards like mine
Earthbound Farm – farm stand tour
My trip to Earthbound Farm including a tractor ride!
How to use egg shells in the garden – you can do this today!

Other related links:

Disclosure: Thank you to the California Dairy Board who provided me with a fabulous trip to best experience their Real California Milk. This is being disclosed in accordance with the FTC’s guidelines.

10 thoughts on “California Dairy Tour

  1. We have family friends who are dairy farmers and it’s an amazing work setup they have. My dad and I took my kids a few years ago. The calves are the best–so sweet! They love to suck on your fingers and are affectionate.


    1. Oh, Kris, if I had a bigger yard, we’d have a cow, too! This makes my husband nuts when I say that because we live in the city and barely have room for our garden and chickens! Being a dairy farmer is hard work. The dedication we saw was amazing.


  2. There is something so sweet about cows, esp. calves! (That calf pic is adorbs!)

    I grew up in the city and now live in a rural community (but no farms). So a couple of years ago I went with my son & his kindergarten class to a corn maze at a farm about 1.5 hrs from here. We went on a hayride thru the cow fields and got to feed the cows. Oh my. The smell was about to make me lose my lunch. I was trying really hard to be tactful but the man driving the tractor could tell, he kept laughing (good-natured) at me. It didn’t seem to bother anyone else & the kids were going crazy feeding them and the cows were loving it too! I guess you can take the girl outta the city but not the city outta the girl! lol


    1. Kris – I’m laughing! Yes, that can be a problem. I almost did the same thing smelling my chicken coop earlier today 😦
      Kids love to feed farm animals and you are a good sport. 🙂 Thanks for writing in!!


  3. Did you ask them “What happens to the dairy cows after they are “spent”? or “What happens to the male calfs?” It all sounds really sweet and lovely and I would love my view to be changed about the dairy industry and meat industry!!!!!


    1. Katie,
      Great questions!
      I didn’t have the answers to these and so check with the experts on how these animals are handled.
      Both “spent” dairy cows and male calves go to the farm – as in to be raised for beef.
      We struggle with this ourselves – one of our backyard chickens is done laying and we need to address what to do with her.
      Thank you for asking and writing in.


    1. Another good question, Katie.
      The mother cow gets to feed the baby calf the colostrum (which is first milk – and full of protein) and have time to bond. It’s not long after that the calf gets weaned. I don’t know if that’s enough time or not (speaking as a former nursing momma here!) but the calves are then fed with bottles and cared for individually.
      I hope that helps, Katie. Thank you for asking!!


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