HAMPSHIRE, Ill. — A daylong event provided Chicago-area moms
an opportunity to tour a Holstein dairy operation and watch as milk was bottled
at a Dean Foods Co. facility.
A group of Illinois Farm Families field moms visited a dairy
farm near Hampshire owned and operated by Dale and Linda Drendel.
“I’m a seventh-generation farmer, and I grew up on a dairy
farm,” Linda Drendel told the group.
“I’m a fifth-generation farmer, and my dad milked cows,”
Dale Drendel added. “So we’ve sent milk to market every day since Jan. 19,
The Drendels were married in 1974, and at that time, Dale’s
dad was milking around 50 cows.
“In 1978, we went to milking in a parlor and increased the
herd to 80 cows,” the dairyman explained. “We continued to grow to 100 cows, 120
cows and now we’re stable at 150 cows.”
In the calf barn, Linda Drendel explained to the field moms
about the individual pens for the dairy calves. These newborn calves are fed
individually with milk until they are weaned and moved into a group pen.
Dr. Zach Janssen, the veterinarian for the Drendels’ herd,
demonstrated how he uses an ultrasound machine during the farm tour.
“This cow was bred on May 28, and cows have a similar
pregnancy period to humans, so her due date is March 5,” he said. “With this
internal probe, I can see the image of the calf on my goggles, and you will see
the same image on the screen.”
With the cow a little over eight weeks pregnant, Janssen
determined she 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 explained. “I’ll do about 750 of these pregnancy
exams each week.”
Janssen completed his animal science degree and veterinary
degree both at the University of Illinois.
“After graduating, I took a job in Wisconsin, so about 60
percent of my work is with Wisconsin cows and 40 percent with Illinois cows,” he
The veterinarian added that when cows are sick, they receive
medicine on a per 100-pound basis.
“Because we’re producing a food product, there can’t be any
antibiotics in it,” he stressed. “We must be very selective about when we give
antibiotics, what type of antibiotics and once we give an antibiotic that cow’s
milk can’t be sold for a certain number of days.”
All of Janssen’s clients receive a book that includes all
the medicines that he potentially could use on the farm.
“I probably use less than 25 percent of what is listed in
this book,” he said. “The book includes the labels for every medicine and how
each medicine has to be given.”
A treatment log documents which cow receives a medicine to
prevent any antibiotics from getting into the milk stream.
“Animals get diseases, so we need antibiotics to treat cows
when they are sick,” the veterinarian said. “All milk is antibiotic free —
that’s the law, and meat is the same way.”
The heifer barn on the Drendel farm was built in 2007.
“The calves come to this barn from the calf barn,” the
dairyman said. “The heifers are fed twice a day, and this barn works great — the
heifers really grow well.”
Cows are milked twice a day at 4 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
“Our milk is picked up every day, and it goes to the Dean’s
plant in Rockford,” Drendel said. “We are a Grade A farm, so we are inspected at
least twice a year.”
Sharon Blau is a field mom from Des Plaines, and she is a
mother of three kids.
“This farm is eye-opening to me,” she said. “I have been on
farms before, but I decided to apply to this program because I don’t know the
difference between soybeans and corn.”
Blau noted that the cows on the farm are not afraid of Dale
“If they weren’t taking care of them, the animals would be
running away,” she added. “But, instead, the cows are excited to see their
Tanja Saarinen grew up in Finland and now lives in Oak Park.
“This is my second visit to a farm as a field mom,” said the
mom of three kids who also visited a swine farm. “I was concerned about
antibiotics and hormones in food, and I didn’t know that it is illegal to have
antibiotics in milk.”
Saarinen added that she was happy to see how the animals are
kept on the farm.
“I’m not upset about anything I see,” she said. “And I
didn’t know that Illinois has so many family farms.”
At the Dean Foods Co. facility in Huntley, white milk is
bottled into half-gallon and one-gallon containers.
“This plant was built in the early ‘50s, and we bottle,
whole milk, 2 percent milk, 1 percent milk and fat-free milk here,” said Dick
Crone, Dean Foods Co. north region director of operations. “The milk primarily
comes from farms in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois.”
Crone explained that all milk goes through a battery of
strenuous tests before it is ever accepted off the truck.
“We focus on quality first because there is nothing we can
do here that will make the quality any better,” he stressed. “All we can do is
maintain the quality of the milk.”
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,”
Most of farms sending milk to the Dean plant are set up for
every day delivery.
“Within one to two hours, the milk will be at this plant and
we bottle milk six days a week and we receive milk seven days a week,” the Dean
Foods director said.
For the pasteurization process, Crone explained milk enters
the process at 36 to 37 degrees, and it goes through a plate heat exchanger to
heat the milk to 175 to 177 degrees for 20 seconds.
“The milk goes to the separator to take the cream out, it
goes to the homogenizer so the fat is homogenized through the entire product and
then it is cooled back done to 36 degrees,” he said. “The whole process takes
less than two minutes.”
Illinois Farm Families is supported by 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. For more information, visit www.watchusgrow.org.