What would a sweltering summer day be like without an occasional stop at the local ice cream parlor for a couple scoops?

Can you imagine eating piping hot chocolate cookies without a frosty glass of milk?

Imagine sipping a buttery glass of chardonnay without a couple of pieces of aged cheddar.

Every day in this great country of ours we can partake of these wholesome, nutritious dairy products; but if there were no dairy farmers, dairy cows or dairy industry, there would be none of these tasty treats.   

Dairy products remain a major source of nutrients in our daily diets. If they’re not, they should be.

To find another source for the 300 milligrams of calcium found in either an eight-ounce glass of milk, a cup of yogurt or 1 1/2 ounces of natural cheese, the average person would have to graze on eight cups of spinach, six cups of pinto beans or two and one-half cups of broccoli, according to the Midwest Dairy Association.

The primary nutrients found in milk and other dairy products are calcium, vitamins A and D, carbohydrates, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, riboflavin and high-quality proteins.

U.S. dairy farmers provide an estimated $140 billion annually to this nation’s economy. Dairy farmers help sustain rural America. Even considering this nation’s continuing economic challenges, dairy farmers and companies are a lifeline to 900,000 jobs in this country.

Dairy is local. Dairy farm families are business owners. Every glass of milk and each dairy product produced by these family businesses brings vitality to local and state economies.

Kansas farms generate approximately $537 million in milk sales annually. In Kansas, the average dairy cow produces about seven gallons of milk per day. That’s more than 2,585 gallons of milk over the course of a typical year.

Growth in the Kansas dairy industry means economic growth and access to safe dairy products for local communities and the state. The Kansas ag growth dairy strategy has identified the expansion of the influence, presence and professional standing of the Kansas dairy industry as a priority.

This development has been fueled by the arrival of large-scale dairy operations, primarily in western Kansas. Milk production has doubled since 1994 and grown more than 25 percent in the last five years. There are now approximately 290 dairies in the state, milking 154,000 cows. It takes about 48 hours for milk to travel from the farm to the dairy case.

As in nearly every sector of the agricultural industry, the United States has more milk production than any other country in the world. This country has six major breeds of dairy cattle: Holstein, Jersey, Brown Swiss, Guernsey, Ayrshire and Milking Shorthorn.

Dairy cows begin producing milk after they calve, when they are about two years old. Most cows are milked twice a day in modern milking facilities that incorporate gentle machines attached and removed by dairy farmers.

Today, all milk sold in grocery stores is pasteurized during processing. During pasteurization, milk is briefly heated to a temperature high enough to destroy bacteria without affecting its flavor or food value.

Yes, since the first cow arrived in the Jamestown Colony back in 1611, America’s dairy farmers have been helping provide a healthy, nutritious food product. So, fill your glass with milk every day. Dip a couple scoops of vanilla ice cream on that piece of apple pie. Cut another slice of cheese for a summer snack. And give thanks to Kansas and America’s dairy farmers.

 

John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.