As you may know, June is Dairy Month, a time when the quality, value, healthfulness and downright good taste of milk and dairy products are emphasized.
Dairy Month may help to bring more of us back to drinking milk and eating cheese, ice cream and other great dairy products the year round.
It would be great if everyone reading this article could visit a modern dairy farm and see how quality milk is produced. And you will have that chance this fall.
As one stop on a September drive-it-yourself-tour, there will be an open house at Chris and Cindy Zabest's Bossy's Way Farm on state Route 46 in New Lyme Township, Ashtabula County. You will be able to observe this herd of about 165 cows plus young animals being milked, fed and given excellent care.
This tour is being sponsored by the Farm Bureau in cooperation with the Ashtabula County Antique Engine Club. Watch for more information later.
In this area and across Ohio and the United States, we have seen a drop in the number of dairy herds. Our area may have one-third to one-fourth of the herds of 50 years ago.
At the same time we are producing as much and, in the U.S., more milk than any time in the history of our country.
Unfortunately, the amount of milk dairy herds are producing is hurting dairy farm incomes. Milk prices compared to costs of production are at one of the lowest levels ever. Dairy farmers are losing money every day.
Dairy farms today across the nation are producing an abundance, slightly more than the market needs. One reason for this is our dairy export market has dropped sharply caused by the downturn in the global economy. It takes just a small excess of milk supply for processors to pay lower prices.
We have seen some drop in the store price of milk in gallons in our area and that has encouraged folks to drink more. And it is good and good for us.
Since the mid-1940s, there have been some dramatic changes in the amount of milk produced by each cow and in the number of cows needed to produce our milk supply.
In the mid-1940s, we had about 25 million cows in the U.S. producing about 4,500 pounds of milk a year. There were about 138 million people in the country.
Today there are about 9 million cows with each producing about 20,000 pounds a year. That's 2.2 times as many people with 59 percent fewer cows. Just think about the efficiency of dairy farmers and the technology they have used to do this.
Then researchers at Cornell University studied the overall resources needed to produce a given amount of milk. They concluded that in 1944, milk production required two to four times the resources and produced two to four times the excreted nutrients and emissions compared to 2006.
There were 4.1 times as many cows producing milk for 57 percent fewer consumers. These cows required 4.5 times more land and produced 2.6 times more methane.
Since "carbon footprints" are in vogue right now, in 1944 the calculated carbon production for each pound of milk was 10 pounds. In 2006 the calculated carbon was just three pounds for each pound of milk produced, nearly 70 percent decrease, a remarkable drop.
Dairy farmers deserve a lot of credit for the contributions they have made to our environment. And they can do more if they are allowed to use new technology and nutritional changes.
So drink that good cold glass of milk, eat one of those great varieties of cheese or flavors of ice cream or yogurt the year round! They are good and good for you. Support our dairy farmers.
Parker works with the local Farm Bureau Board and is an independent agricultural writer.