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Farm and Forest Visit to a Dairy Farm

There were 74 dairy farms in Ozark County and 158 in Douglas County in 1997. There are probably fewer today. Fewer people want to go into dairy farming these days. Still, dairy farming is an important part of our area. We see those shiny milk tanker trucks rolling down our county roads. We don't often get to see where that milk comes from. We wanted to find out. 

Visit to a Dairy Farm

Linda Pettit and her helper Dana Davis run a dairy farm near Dora. I went there at sunset on a clear, cold, windy late November day. I asked them a bunch of simple questions. I found there was lots to learn. 

Linda owns 44 cows. About 3/4ths of them are lactating (giving milk) at any time. A cow must give birth to a calf each year to keep lactating. It takes five or six shifts, or six cows per shift, to get all the cows milked. Each shift takes about 15 minutes.
This is her dairy barn. The tank room is in the front (left of picture). The milking parlor is to the rear (right of picture). That's where the cows enter doors from a paddock to be milked and fed. They leave through another door when they're finished.
Dana Davis, who runs the dairy farm with her, calls the cows in for milking. They are Holsteins. You will see many of these black and white cattle around the Ozarks. They give lots of milk and make good beef cattle too.
Keeping the milk germ-free and safe to drink is the most important thing of all. A St. Louis Health Department inspector comes every month. Linda must clean everything that touches milk. This is every day, twice a day, before each of the two daily milkings. She gets an extra 10 cents for every 100 pounds of milk because she keeps things so clean.
Linda pumps water disinfected with bleach through all the pipes and tubes. She does both the pipes in the milking parlor and in the separate tank room. She cleans this pipe that carries milk through the wall from the milking parlor to the tank.   Notice all the switches on the wall. Notice the window through to the milking parlor. 
The pipe swings around and attaches to the milk tank. The tank keeps the milk cooled. It has a stirrer. The motor is on top. The DFA (Dairy Farmers of America) tanker truck comes every two days. It hooks up to the storage tank inside through a little door in the front of the building.
This is one side of the milking parlor. Three feed pans are on the wall to the right. Notice the floor drains to the left and also the grooved concrete floor.  These make it easier to wash away dirt and manure the cows bring in, or create while they're being milked.
The first step is to wash the cow's teats with wash rags kept in a pail with water and bleach. This is to wash off any dirt or manure before attaching the milking machine.
The next step is to squeeze out the somatin before attaching the milking machine. Somatin is fluid filled with disease-fighting white blood cells. It protects each teat from infection and must be squeezed out first.
"Inflations" are the tubes that suction milk from the cow's teats. Linda attaches an inflation to each teat. A vacuum pump provides suction to the six milking machines. Each machine acts like a calf suckling at the udder, but at all four teats at one time. The machine lets go automatically when the cow's udder is empty. 
Then Linda coats each teat with iodine. Teats open up during milking and then are vulnerable to infection. Iodine kills any germs that may try to get a hold there. This is to prevent the disease called mastitis, or inflammation of the teats.
The milk begins to flow. The four inflations empty into a small clear chamber, and from there into a larger one. Linda can see through them how well the milk is flowing. 
The milk then flows into a stainless steel pipe which leads toward the big holding tank out front. On average each cow gives 45 pounds of milk a day. 
The cows, in groups of six, come quickly in from the paddock. They want to eat! They head for the feed pans. 
Linda dials the right amount for each cow. A timer allows feed to pour from bins above into each pan. The timer automatically delivers the right amount. The average amount each cow gets is 20 pounds per milking.
Here's what it's made from. Besides this feed, the cows graze outside on fescue. Linda also brings in "green graze" forage for them in the winter.
Out they go. Milking goes the same way for all five or six groups of cows.
Dana hangs up the milkers and replaces the protective cups on the inflations.
The old radio keeps playing, night and day. It's part of the equipment too.

Source: 1997 Census of Agriculture, Missouri State and County Data, National Agricultural Statistics Service, U.S Department of Agriculture.
Text and photos by Peter Callaway.