Sunday, July 24, 2011

Holy Cow! She Said Teat...

Indiana is a wholesome, homey looking state. Driving through the back roads is like driving through a Norman Rockwell scene. Everything seems ordered and neat, the front yards of whitewashed farm houses are well cared for, but not showy or fussy. The houses look as if a round, smiling, green-thumbed grandma lives there. In honor of this image of wholesomeness I bring you Fair Oaks Farms.  Because what’s more wholesome than milk?
Fair Oaks Farms is a working dairy and tourist trap attraction in north-west Indiana. It’s no small operation either; they produce over 7 million gallons of milk a month from their herd of 30,000 cows.

That's a cow's eye on the tour bus.
I'm the one with all the teeth.

We have visited Fair Oaks Farms several times, they have all the things a trucker needs: a huge parking lot, right off the interstate, and lots and lots of cheese. And ice cream. And milk. If you’re lactose intolerant, you should just  skip the cafe, but it’s still an interesting place to visit. You can watch cheese being made, do a tour of the farm, and watch a calf being born.
We go for the grilled cheese sandwiches. Thick crusty bread, tons of their own cheese (pepper Havarti is best) then sprinkled with Asiago, and smashed between a grill press until gooey, melty and yummy. Hang on, let me wipe the drool off the keyboard. 

Let’s talk cows.
* A cow spends about 6 hours a day eating. Me too.
* Cows eat 90 pounds of food a day. Me too.
* A full udder holds 25-50 pounds of milk. Uh. I know all the words to the Gilligan’s Island theme song.
* One cow can produce 200,000 cups of milk a year.
* When the cows are too old to give milk, they are sent off to a huge pasture, with lots of thick grass, and a great health plan, to live the rest of their lives in comfort. (They didn’t actually *say* this, but I know it’s true.)

In the birthing barn we sat in a theatre, on concrete stadium seating and watched a mama cow give birth behind glass. They told us that they have an average of 80 births a day, so you’re virtually guaranteed to see a live birth any day you visit. Holy cow that’s a lot of cows!
We did the bus tour to the working part of the dairy, which was really interesting but maybe summer isn’t the best time of year for this. A bunch of screaming kids on a hot bus, who snicker every time the tour guide said "teat". Ok, that was me snickering, but still I think the fall would be a better time to visit.

The best part is seeing the cows line up and get on a giant record player. If you’re under 40, that’s a machine that the dinosaurs used to play their iPods. Anyway, the cows walk up a platform that spins slowly, someone hooks up the cow business to the milking machine, the milk gets pumped out and by the time the record player goes around once the milking is done and the cow walks off.

Cow spinning.

More than you ever wanted to know about cows? Maybe. But the Tumbleweeds are willing to eat as many grilled cheese sandwiches as it takes to provide you with a glimpse of America and her fine attractions. 

You're welcome.


  1. COWS!! i love cows...have never been to a BIG dairy farm like that...have never had REAL fresh milk...or that!! but i have passed many fields of cows along the road...and i yell MOOOOO every time!
    sounds like killer grilled cheese sandwiches! yum!!

    that big wheel thing they get on...reminds me of that amusement ride...where they strap you in just like that...and it starts to rise...tilt...and spin REALLY fast...then the floor drops out!
    but i don't think that's what happens there...or the audience would get smacked in the face with flying milk...or maybe even a TEAT!

  2. I'm going to tell you what a country girl I am. I felt really famous growing up because the farm down the road was the first in the state to install one of the magic milk wheels (not even close to that big).
    Even I cannot comprehend of a farm on that scale. I stand in awe of such a multitude of teats.

  3. I wonder which caveman it was that was walking by a cow and thought to himself, " I am going to squeeze those hangy down things to see what comes out and then drink it?" or the caveman that got the girl and boy cow mixed up?! Did you see a soy milk cow there? Chocolate milk cow?

  4. When I was growing up, my grandparents lived right near Carnation Farms up in Washington and we would often go take the tour. A lot of fond memories at that place.

    It also, for some reason, had a kennel that contained a lot of loud angry dogs. Did Fair Oaks Farm have a kennel too? Since Carnation Farms is the only cow farm I've ever been to, I've always assumed they all have dog kennels too.

  5. Laura, Oh the horror! I do NOT want to get slapped in the head with a teat. =)

    Melissa, Magic Milk Wheel is a GREAT name, so of course you would feel famous being in close proximity to one. Also, Multitude of Teats would be a great name for a band.

    Glen, You can't milk boy cows?!? Try again, I'm pretty sure you can.

    Christian, I didn't see any dogs, angry or otherwise, but the calves get to have their own igloo looking dog houses while they're little. I guess that's compensation for being taken away from their mamas.

  6. OK, now that I've picked myself up from the floor And wiped my eyes and held my sides, I'll attempt a comment. This dinosaur has played lots of "records" (i-pod? What's THAT?), but has NEVER seen a milking operation like that one - I'll never view those lines of milk cartons at the store the same again.Wonder how they milk the soybeans... You've outdone yourself on this one, but please keep it up!! I'll attempt to remain on my chair next promises, tho!

  7. Ladybug, I will have to look into the soybean milking...I don't know if plants have teats, but if the birds and bees are about sex, maybe there's something I don't know! Thanks for the kind words!!


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