Monday, September 13, 2010


On Friday, we officially kicked off our school year with a huge field trip. And I mean huge in every way. We drove to Indiana with my parents (Hi, Grammy and Grampy!) and went to Fair Oaks Farm. Fair Oaks is one of the largest dairy farms in the US. I am still trying to process the scale of the things we saw. Here are some of the highlights:
  • We saw two calves being born. Hands down, this was the coolest part of the day. After the first birth (which was a little difficult), it was wonderful to go back in the barn and see both Mom and baby doing well. I would have put that little boy (he only weighed 60#) in the back of my van and brought him home if they had let me.
  • We toured the facility in a climate controlled, bio-secure, luxury bus.
  • We saw the "Dairy-go-round" carousel where they milk the cows 3 times a day.
  • We learned how milk, cheese, and ice cream are made--and sampled some of each.
  • We learned how the farm takes the manure and turns it into electricity to power their facilities. Yes, way. (or maybe I should say Whey.)
A little dairy farm math, or Cowculating, if you'll indulge me:
  • FOF has 30,000 cows. 3,000 each on ten separate farms.
  • They own 25,000 acres of land. 20% of that land is preserved in forests, streams and unfarmed buffer zones to support wildlife and prevent erosion.
  • They have 80 some births a day. Boys are sold, girls stay (and are kept within the same herd for their entire life).
  • Each milking cow produces up to 10 gallons of milk per day. I forget the exact numbers, but that's around 20,000 gallons every day (not all of them are producing milk all the time).
  • Each cow eats up to 100 pounds of food and drinks up to 30 gallons of water per day.
  • Each cow also produces (and you knew this was coming) up to 150 pounds of waste per day. About 60% of that is liquid. Which means, with 30,000 cows, the farm processes 1.6 million pounds of manure every day. I promise, I will never complain about cat boxes again. This was also where I stopped wanting to bring that little cow home with me.
There is a lot more, but at this point my brain starts hurting. If you are ever near Fair Oaks, I would highly recommend a visit. But maybe not with really little kids (below 1st grade). The birthings are...well, births. Exhilarating, but messy. Use your discretion. The place is very kid friendly, but you should know that you never come in direct contact with any of the animals. That is for the cows' protection (and yours), but if you're expecting a petting zoo, it could be a little disappointing (we knew, so it was okay). The information comes at you pretty fast, and much of it would be over the little ones heads. Oh, and if you have kids with sensory issues, you might want to skip the 4D mooovie (sorry).

How about some pics? I'll warn was not our best photography day. It's hard to take pictures through glass, and of perpetually moving children.