By Amanda Carlson,
student, intern, and former Dairy Princess
I recently moved to downtown Chicago from my 70-cow Holstein dairy farm in South East Minnes-o-o-ta. This is where I will be spending the next three months of my life in order to complete an internship with a dairy promotion organization. My move brought me into a world where very few people have a farming background. I was feeling completely out of my element and trying to learn how to adjust to this new way of life. So, when I heard that my fellow interns and I would be touring a dairy farm as part of our ‘basic training,’ I was ecstatic!
I had already spent a whole week in the city before touring the farm and I was ready and willing to have a chance to talk to people who are dairy farmers like me. Well, tour day was finally here, and let me tell you folks, talking the specifics about farming with other farmers was the furthest thing from what I did that day.
It started when we were in the ‘birthing barn’. Our group was lucky enough to be there just as a cow was giving birth to her healthy baby calf. While I had watched this miracle happen many times back home on my own farm, my colleagues never had, so as you can probably imagine there were a million and one questions about it.
- “How big is it? I just want to go and pick it up!” “A new born calf usually weighs around 90 pounds, and they grow to weigh about 2000 pounds.”
- “Is this the only baby this cow will have?” “No, in order for the cow to continue to produce milk she has a new calf about every 370 days.”
- “How old are they when have their first calf?” “Usually cows calve around 2 years of age.”
And the questions continued all the way home from the farm. It was at this moment that I realized just how lucky I am to be able to live the life that less than 2% of Americans do; on a dairy farm. It was an incredible feeling to be able to share my story with friends who were so interested in something they rarely thought about: where their food comes from. And what better way than to start at the beginning—with a newborn baby calf. A calf that takes an enormous amount of care and attention in order for it to grow into a healthy mother and be part of our community for years to come.
This experience gave me a whole new perspective on a cow giving birth. The farm tour that I thought was going to allow me a deeper view into the dairy industry, instead humbled me into realizing how lucky I am to have fed a calf its first bottle, cared for it as it grows, and then when she has matured, watch her give birth to the next generation on our farm.