Teachable moments for the consumer

January 4, 2009 06:00 PM
Rick Lundquist

Two of my clients are doing a great job of teaching the general public about milking, feeding and managing dairy cattle. 

Jerry and Karen Dakin, in Myakka City, Fla., have transformed their dairy into a fun and educational destination for city folks, school kids, tourists and even other dairy producers. They've added a milk processing plant, a shop that sells gifts, ice cream and produce, a corn maze and a petting zoo to their 1,500-cow dairy, so kids and adults can spend a few hours having fun while learning about the dairy industry.

They also added an observation platform so visitors can watch much of the operation from one spot. Guided tours explain how we feed the cows. They have samples of each ingredient in the ration and explain how we use byproduct feeds such as citrus pulp, wet brewers grains, cottonseed, cottonseed hulls and distillers grains. They also feed green chop most of the year, and the visitors can see the green fields surrounding the dairy as the guide explains the environmental advantages of feeding byproducts and recycling manure through their green chopping system as well as their composting operation. 

What I really like about the Dakin's new venture is that it sheds a positive light on the dairy industry, but doesn't hide any aspect of the operation. Visitors can see everything that is going on.

They can observe the treatment facility. They can watch as the barns are cleaned and see how the manure is managed. They can see the close up pen as well as the hospital pen and can watch as the employees go about their chores. It's a working dairy with all the problems of any dairy. The guide answers questions honestly about all aspects of the farm.

You may think that this approach could open them up to criticism from certain people, but the Dakins are proud of the dairy business, and I think they are doing all of the industry a favor by educating the public in an honest and open manner.

For more information on Dakin Dairy Farm, you can contact them at www.dakindairyfarms.com.

--Rick Lundquist is an independent nutrition and management consultant based in Duluth, Minn. You can contact him at siestadog@aol.com.

This column is part of the Dairy Today e-Update newsletter, which is delivered to subscribers biweekly and includes dairy industry analysis, dairy nutrition information as well as the latest dairy headline news. Click here to subscribe.



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