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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- While I think cheese goes with anything, there’s an app for your device to help pick cheese pairings.
- California Dairy Board has an extensive recipe collection, too. Type in your ingredient and you’ll find a recipe.
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.