Got Milk?

Okay, so I was born and raised in New York City. While I’ve lived out in ‘the country,’ it has never been my privilege to live on, let alone visit, a farm. So, I figured, that is one thing I do not know about.

The kind of farming I know least about is dairy farming. I mean, it just never occurred to me how they do that whole thing. So color me amazed at the different kinds of milk which is harvested – that’s what they call it, like it is some kind of a plant farming concern. I knew, of course about cow’s milk. Who doesn’t? I’ve known about goat’s milk, but have not been brave enough to try it. But, in my wildest dreams, I never had thought of milking sheep, or horses, or buffaloes – oh my gosh! – or even stranger, camels!

Sure I’ve seen in the movies, people taking buckets out to a barn, and placing a bucket beneath the cow. It’s that kind of scene that makes us all, aw, isn’t that special. Okay, maybe not, but still, it’s a comforting kind of scene to imagine.

Dairy farming is either located on a ‘dedicated’ farm, or is situated in a section of a multi-purpose farm, (referred to as a mixed farm) which is specifically geared, in that part of the farm, toward collecting milk. Something about using the word harvesting makes me think of aliens dropping down from space, harvesting our species for their creepy experiments or whatever it is we believe they’d use us for.

Anyway, It goes without saying that the terminology differs between countries. Makes sense, right? Let me give you an example: in the USA, the entire dairy farm is simply called a “dairy.” The barn where this collection takes place is referred to as a “milking parlor” or sometimes, just a “parlor.” Makes me think of bordellos, or if you don’t have your mind in the gutter like me, grandma’s house, or great grandma’s house. Nobody has parlors anymore, or calls their ‘living room’ a parlor.

The place on the farm where the milk is stored in bulk tanks, is known as the farm’s “milk house.” I wonder if they have “milk house rules” the way they have “Cider House Rules?”  Of course, the reason for doing all of this is to make money, thus there’s selling involved. So of course, this milk has to be hauled, in trucks – though in the article it said, ‘usually.” So I’m picturing, if they don’t have that way of transporting the milk, there’s this whole set up where they have the milk by pass the milk house and it goes straight into a tube, that travels across the miles, sort of like telephone lines do, and end up in a market where they take care of the rest… but I”m getting ahead of myself, by at least three centuries.

The truck way of it, takes the milk to a “dairy plant,” also, to confuse us even more, known as a “dairy.” This way we don’t know what the answer should be when someone asks, have you been to the dairy? Do they mean the farm, or the plant? See what I’m saying? This is the place where raw milk is processed and prepared for commercial sale of dairy products.

Moving out of the USA, across the world to New Zealand, you might find a similar “milk parlour’ – note, they spell it different – but these are historically known as “milking sheds.” That sounds familiar. I don’t know why. I think I might have been a dairy farmer in a former life, in New Zealand. Of course, sometimes milking sheds are referred to by their type! Sounds like we’re getting in to blood work here. But these types are a bit, how shall I put this, non-sensical?  I’m curious, what about the milk or the process makes them think of “herring bone” as a name for a shed? Are we making clothes here, or harvesting milk? Of course, were you to visit a “dairy” in New Zealand, you might hear someone mention a “Pit Parlour.” Does milk have pits in it? Is it a Pit stop for the milk? I’ll put a poll up sometime and see if anyone bites on what the reasons for these names are.

Not every country has such large concerns as the USA or New Zealand. Sometimes, in those countries with small numbers of animals being milked, the farm is likely to perform the functions of the dairy plant, processing their own milk into salable dairy products, which includes, butter, cheese, or yogurt. Actually, this kind of on-site processing is traditional in producing specialist milk products, more common in the Europe.

While the word “dairy” refers to the farm, or the plant, in the States, in New Zealand, the singular use  of the word, “dairy” almost exclusively refers to a corner shop or ‘superette.’

Historically speaking milk producing animals have been domesticated for thousands of years. Originally, they were part of what was called subsistence farming, specific to nomadic peoples. Thus, when the people took off, they dragged their animals with them. Okay, no, they were not literally dragged. They asked them, politely, “will you accompany us?” Not understanding the language of the two legged, the animals, not wanting to be left behind, because who would then milk them? followed their good friends to come and took the bloating away. They knew which side the bread was buttered (pun intended). This was just as much for the animals as it was for the people. Power to the Animals. It was a good symbiotic relationship. The animals were protected and fed, and in turn, fed the people.

Think of it as the eternal cattle drive, only with the cow, goat, buffalo, or camel, since, depending on where these nomads were, they were riding horses, or in other parts of the world, the camels which made the horses the milk makers.

Once upon a time, the animal would stand in a field, if they were not in a paddock, while being milked. And if you’re thinking this was natural to the critter, you’d be wrong. There was traininng these little heifers went through – though, sadly, they never received a good merit certificate for standing still. The smart farmer came to realize, tethering their stock to a post worked better than all those weeks of training. This would be more for the cow type animal, the quiet ones, the tractable ones, because, we all know that horses and the like tend to kick of their heels when someone messes around with them. Being tethered in the front, was no garantee that the hind end would be acquiscent.

Sadly, somewhere along the way, people got greedy, and in 1937 something called bovine somatotropin – aka BST or bovine growth hormone – was introduced into farming, to increase the yield of milk. It took almost sixty years for it to be approved by the Food and Drug Aministration for use in the U.S. where it has become common, but not elsewhere,to inject it into milk kine dairy cows to increase their production by up to 15%. But the down side: the negative consequences for the animal themselves. Health problems for the cows was on the rise because of this. So much for the former symbiotic relationship.

So be nice to your cows, or horses, or goats, or buffaloes, and camels, because you not only will lose the relationship, you’ll be considered just plain mean, and nobody will want to buy your milk any more.