During a recent tour of a Holstein dairy farm, seven
Chicago-area moms learned about all aspects of the operation from the owners
Dale and Linda Drendel. Dale, a fifth-generation farmer, and Linda, a
seventh-generation farmer, both had experience with dairy cattle from their
The tour was part of the Illinois Farm Families program that
is supported by several Illinois agricultural organizations — Illinois Farm
Bureau, the Illinois Pork Producers Association, the Illinois Corn Marketing
Board, the Illinois Soybean Association, the Illinois Beef Association and the
Midwest Dairy Association.
It is just one of many tours the groups have planned for the
field moms in 2013. These moms already have visited a swine, corn and soybean
farm, and there are a couple more farm tours planned for later this year.
At the Drendel farm, some of the highlights were a visit to
the calf barn, as well as watching the cows during their afternoon milking. But
probably the most fascinating part of the day was when Dr. Zach Janssen, the
veterinarian for the Drendel herd, geared up to do an ultrasound of a
Janssen could see the image of the calf from the internal
probe on his goggles as the same image was shown on a screen that he uses to
train students. He told the moms that pregnancy diagnosing has been done with
cows for a long time by manual palpation, and he has been using the ultrasound
technology for the past 10 years.
With the cow a little over eight weeks pregnant, Janssen
determined it is carrying a bull calf.
“I specialize in this, so this is the vast majority of what
I do on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “I’ll do about 750 of these pregnancy
exams each week.”
The veterinarian explained to the moms that the cows on the
Drendel farm are bred by artificial insemination.
“We don’t manufacture semen,” he stressed. “But instead of a
bull breeding a cow, it’s real bull semen that is artificially put into a
The day’s events also included a visit to the Dean Foods Co.
facility in Huntley. White milk is bottled into half- and one-gallon containers
at this plant that was built in the early ‘50s. Products bottled at the plant
include whole milk, 2-percent milk, 1-percent milk and fat-free milk.
The milk primarily comes from farms in southern Wisconsin
and northern Illinois. Most of the farms sending milk to the Dean plant are set
up for everyday delivery, and the facility bottles milk six days a week and
receives milk seven days a week.
Field moms learned that all milk goes through a battery of
strenuous tests before it ever is accepted off the truck at the Dean facility.
“We focus on quality first because there is nothing we can
do here that will make the quality any better,” said Dick Crone, north region
director of operations for Dean Foods. “All we can do is maintain the quality of
Milk is pasteurized to allow the quality of the milk to last
on the store shelf.
“But pasteurization doesn’t improve the taste of the milk,”
This tour was a great opportunity for the field moms to
learn about the dairy industry from the cow to the milk jug. I bet they had lots
to tell their families when they returned to their homes that night, and they
also share their insights through blogs on the watchusgrow.org website.