My Own Farm Experience
Guest post from Joy Phillips: BYU Dietetic Intern
My mom grew up on a farm in Eastern Idaho. It was a small family-owned farm with just a few cows, pigs and other livestock. I remember being entertained as a child by stories of the farmyard, and some of the best story material came from milking the cows. My mom would often have to avoid the cows’ active, swooshing tails as she sat on the stool milking by hand.
Unlike my mother, I grew up in the city and my only experience with farm life came from my mom’s childhood stories. Recently, I had my own experience on a dairy farm when I went on a farm tour in Utah. I knew that people who grew up on farms worked hard, but what surprised me most was the advanced technology utilized on today’s farm. From formulating feed to monitoring cows, dairy farming is truly a science! Of course I knew that on larger farms, cows were not milked by hand because it would be impractical. However, I had no idea how closely the cows were cared for and monitored.
Fitbits are becoming a popular health monitoring practice for humans, but I learned that cows are cared for and monitored with their own sort of “Fitbit.” Each cow was fitted with an ankle monitor that tracks its steps, eating patterns, and resting time (and now milk fat and protein components!). I learned that the number of steps a cow takes and the amount of time she spends resting are important because they help monitor the health of each individual cow. Cows who walk less than usual might be getting sick or they might have a sore foot. Since the monitors are read as the cows enter the milk parlor 3 times per day, farmers are able to catch problems early treat them. Cows who walk more are typically ready to become pregnant or nearing labor. The tracker also ensures that each cow is being milked at the appropriate time. On my tour, I was impressed by the dedication the farmers had to their cows and the advanced technology that allows farmers to provide excellent, individual care for their cows even on very large operations with hundreds or thousands of animals.