Drink milk and thank a dairy farmer

While we can’t quite call it a “miracle” food, it is one of the healthiest foods readily available to us and doesn’t make a huge dent in our pocketbooks. It is produced in abundance right in our local area and is an “environmentally friendly” food. That is, the carbon footprint to produce a pound of this food is just 37 percent of what it was in 1944.

Yes, this outstanding food is cool, refreshing milk and the dairy products made from milk.

All kinds of research tell us that milk is a “nutrient dense” food. That is, it contains a lot of nutrients for the amount you consume.

Milk is rich in calcium, protein, vitamin D, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin B12 and other vitamins in lesser amounts. In fact, it is one of the most important and readily available sources of calcium in our diets.

Because of improved bone health, drinking low-fat milk and eating dairy products is a great way for older folks to stay out of the wheelchair.

A few folks do have a problem digesting the sugar in milk – they are lactose intolerant. Lactose-free milk is available on the market, and over-the-counter drugs are also available to help those who have problems.

Looking back in history, we find that milk was an important food long before the birth of Christ. It came mostly from sheep, goats and camels. Milk cows didn’t come into the picture until the 1300s and 1400s.

In many ways, milk – and later dairy cows – were considered the savior of mankind.

Local dairy farmers and others across the country have done a remarkable job over the years in increasing the efficiency of milk production.

According to Dr. Dale Bauman from Cornell University, milk production from each cow is up 467 percent since 1944. He cites research that shows dairy farmers are producing as much milk today as they did in 1944 from just 21 percent of the cows, using only 23 percent as much feed, 35 percent as much water and making only 24 percent as much animal waste.

This efficiency on the part of dairy farmers is why the carbon footprint for each pound of milk is only 37 percent of what it was in 1944.

When we stop and think about it, what dairy farmers have accomplished is truly outstanding. They have been able to do this through taking excellent care of their cows and using new research that has become available over the years. Such technology as artificial insemination that has made outstanding herd sires available for the average farmer has played a huge role.

Newer feeds and feeding methods have also been important. More recently, within the last 10 years, the genomic selection of herd sires and cows has become important. The individual cow production testing program that provided a basis for good cow selection was widely used.

Most important was the hard work and careful use of new technology by dairy farmers. They looked to their Land Grant Universities and Extension Services to get the latest research out to them, then they used this information.

If you want to know how this almost-miracle food known as milk is produced in our area, contact a dairy farm friend and plan a visit to a their farm. You will find it well worth your time and an enjoyable experience.

Since dairy farmers are careful about who comes on their farms, be sure to schedule the visit ahead of time.

Also be sure to drink those three glasses of milk every day. You will enjoy it.

Parker is an independent agricultural writer.