Friday On The Farm ~ July 16, 2021
Life on the Dairy
Since joining RULE, I have seen with my own eyes, that people in urban America are still naïve about where their food comes from and how it is made. But I have learned that it takes every one of us, in rural areas or not, to work together for a common goal. That goal is to produce a safe and nutritious product for consumers, both young and old. Hello! My name is Jodi (Keith) Kensinger and this is my story! I have always been a cow person at heart. Growing up on a dairy farm, instilled in me the hard work ethics that is needed for everyday life, especially a strong leader. From a young age, I have always been in the barn to help with the daily milkings, showing cows through 4-H & FFA, and educating the public on where their food comes from.
Now as an adult, things have changed a bit. My parents sold our cows and I got married to a dairy farmer. We reside in Martinsburg, PA, with our 2 cats Muffy and Casper. I have an off the farm job where I work in Radiology for Geisinger Medical Center.
At our farm, my husband gets out of bed at 4am to go a half mile up the road to the family farm where he gets things ready for the morning milking. He opens the gates to get the milk cows ushered into the parlor. A parlor is a platform that the cows stand on while the milking staff are down in the pit so they are better able to reach the cows. At 5am, the milk house is prepped and the milking pump is flipped on. A milk house is a housing unit that houses the bulk tank. That is a large holding tank where the milk is cooled and stored until the milk truck can pick it up. Usually every other day is routine for our farm.
In the parlor, we very carefully clean off the cow’s udder, making sure there is no dirt or manure at the tip of their udder. We start by using a pre-dip (usually an iodine-based solution that kills bacteria). Next, we use clean, white wash cloths to wipe the brown contrast off. By doing this, it is sending a signal to the cow’s brain, to let down her milk. Once the cow’s udder is cleaned off and fully prepped, then the hand-held milking unit is attached to her udder.
THIS IS NOT HURTING THE COW!!!! This is helping the cow and relieving her discomfort that she may be experiencing. Depending on the breed of dairy, 1 cow can milk up to 75+ pounds of milk in one milking (that’s nearly 9 gallons of milk). This hand-held unit is left on for about 5–7 minutes. On our farm, we milk Holstein cows, along with 1 Lineback cow. Once the milking unit comes off, then a post dip (usually a germicide) is placed on the teats. By doing so, this will reduce the risk of bacteria entering the teat opening until the tip closes while waiting for the next milking (usually 12 hours from that point). We do this for each and every cow, 2 times a day. We complete this process for 125 cows on our farm. Once the cows are milked, they are released back into the barn where they usually go for a nice long drink at the water trough and eat a delightful meal that my husband has mixed up for them.
Since the cows were getting milked and the barn was empty, my husband slips out the back door to go mix up a batch of TMR (Total Mixed Ration) feed. Just like with people, cows need a wholesome balanced diet. The purpose of feeding TMR is that each cow can consume the required level of nutrients in each bite. A cow’s ration should include a balance of grains and proteins, vitamins and nutrients, and good quality forages (like hay, corn, soybeans, etc.). He uses a large forage mixing wagon attached to a New Holland tractor to accomplish this.
On our farm, my husband is very particular about what type of nutrients and vitamins he is giving our cows and young heifers. These are female cows that have not had a calf or given birth yet…. Which we have 122 heifers alone! He works with a nutritionist to make sure each cow is getting a well-balanced meal. They have it calculated down, in a way, that he knows exactly how many pounds every cow is getting. In one day’s time, each cow is eating nearly 114 pounds of the TMR mixture that my husband mixes up. This is only fed to the cows that are six months old and older. These nutrients will help them grow into strong, mature milk cows whenever they turn two years old.
It is every farmers priority to make sure their cows are happy and that a safe nutritious meal is prepared for every consumer to enjoy. If you have questions, ask a farmer. Google never milked a cow, but there are a lot of hardworking men and women that have. Your local famer would be more than happy to take you on a tour of their farm to show you the amazing process that gets food from the farm to your table. The next time you pour milk on your cereal or in your cup of coffee, remember the entire process it takes for you to enjoy something so nutritious and delicious. Better yet, the next time you see a farmer, be sure to thank them for all they do! I can guarantee you that they will appreciate hearing your gratitude!
Check back next week where I will be discussing the many hardships facing the dairy industry today!
Jodi (Keith) Kensinger is a member of RULE (XVIII). She and her husband, Ben, live in Martinsburg on the family dairy farm where they milk and take care of 335 acres of land. She is an employee of Geisinger Health System where she works in the Radiology Dept. Jodi is an active member of the PA State Grange, where she serves as the state Chaplin. Locally, she is the President of the Huntingdon County Pomona Grange and Secretary of Lincoln Grange #914. She is also a member of St. Matthews United Church of Christ in Entriken where she serves as program coordinator.