Californians take special pride in the fact that our farmers are leading producers of most of the natural foods we eat, including fruits, nuts and vegetables. Real, all-natural milk is also produced at many family-owned dairy farms throughout the state.
To learn more, we put some of the questions we're asked most to farmers across California.
Q: Where does my dairy milk come from?
A: As Americans, we get 97 percent of our milk from cows, although it is interesting to note that in other parts of the world people also get their milk from camels, yaks, water buffalos, elk and even reindeer.
Q: Do all cows produce milk?
A: Milk comes from dairy cows that have been bred to produce milk, of which there are six common breeds including the familiar black and white Holstein. Female cows become dairy cows after they have had calves and begin producing milk. Before that, they are called heifers.
Q: How are cows cared for?
A: Every effort is made to ensure that the animals are treated humanely. Dairy cows are either raised on pasture, in open-sided barns or in open lots where they can roam freely. From providing shaded outdoor areas, along with soft sand and dry compost, our role as farmers is to make sure our animals are kept dry and comfortable, and protected from extreme weather conditions. Ensuring the proper health and wellness of our cows – from feeding them the right foods to washing and inspecting the cows – is a top concern, and one that keeps us busy from sun up to sun down.
Q: What do dairy cows eat?
A: In addition to a comfortable living environment, the most important part of a cow’s daily life is its diet. A cow lives on forage, which is a combination of grass, hay or corn silage, grains like wheat and barley and soybean meal. Dairy farms also work with animal nutritionists to ensure cows get the right level of vitamins and minerals in their daily feed along with plenty of fresh water. A good supply of water is especially important as cows can drink up to 50 gallons per day!