by Cheryl Murtland, geography teacher
AP Human Geography students had the opportunity to experience first-hand the innovations in dairy farming. After studying a unit on agriculture and watching excerpts from the documentary Food Inc, we visited Brackenhurst Farms in Sidney to see a dairy operation. Dave Aylard and his family operate the farm where they milk 95 cows two times a day, every day. We first met the calves that had recently been born and Dave explained how they keep their operation going by ensuring a steady supply of milk, meaning they need to have calves been born all throughout the year. To increase safety on the farm, they now use artificial insemination instead of keeping a bull on the property.
We then met Mae Bell who stood patiently while volunteers tried milking her by hand. The rate of success was quite impressive! You could hear bargains happening with the familiar “If you try it, I’ll try it.” Mechanization was more evident in the milking parlour where we saw how the cows were milked by machine. We had the chance to stick our finger in the machine to see that it’s very gentle on the cow’s udder, much more gentle than a calf would be. Our last stop was to see the whole milk in a large tank that gets emptied every second day by the Island Farms milk truck.
“It is important to be grateful for the foods we have, because people work hard to make them available to us.”
“The process of storing and processing the milk is more mechanical than I thought it would be.”
“People such as the Aylards are fundamental to others’ survival and we should show farmers more gratitude, acknowledgement and respect for doing the ‘dirty work’ most of us would not want to do.”
“I got the chance to milk a cow. It was a very special experience that I have never had before.”
“I learned that in Australia and other countries, they only milk 10 months of the year so the farmers get a two-month paid vacation, unlike in Canada where dairy farmers work 365 days a year.”
“The size of the cows really surprised me.”
The next time we see the dairy section in a grocery store, we’ll appreciate all the work that went into making the milk for us to consume.