Cow Labor Is Measured In Gallons

October 06, 1991|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff writer

The cows at the Fritz farm in New Windsor produce about 152,800 gallons of milk a year, or enough for about 7,300 Americans.

The 60 cows, living and breathing milk factories, each produce about seven gallons a day, Daniel Fritz said.

Raven, a 5-year-old Holstein that weighs 1,600 pounds, was the farm's best producer last year, with 3,388 gallons.

The average American drinks 21 gallons of milk a year, the Atlanta-based Southeast United Dairy Industry Association Inc. says.

Twice a day, Dan and his parents, George and Dorothy Fritz, lead the cows into the milking barn to persuade the animals to give up what they've worked hard all day to produce.

Every day, usually by noon, a truck arrives to empty a 700-gallon tank and take the Fritzes' milk to be pasteurized and bottled or made into powdered milk, ice cream, yogurt or cheese.

The Fritzes sell their milk to the Atlantic Dairy Cooperative, based in Southampton, Pa. The co-op has about 3,500 members in seven states,said Laura E. England, public relations manager.

It is responsible for getting milk from the farms to the processing plants, she said.Co-op officials also test each load of milk for bacteria, antibiotics and white-cell count, and inspect member farms several times a year, England said.

The dairy farm is inspected regularly by state andfederal officials, Dan said.

He must keep detailed records for each cow. He knows when they're in heat, when they've been bred, when their calves are due, what they eat and how much milk they produce. Heeven makes a daily mental note on their moods.

He does all record-keeping by hand. The family has a computer, but he hasn't entered the cow statistics yet.

Dan also does all of the breeding, through artificial insemination, to try to create the best cows.

"We need to maintain a volume of milk," he said.

If a cow isn't producing aswell as she should or is unhealthy, Dan must decide whether to keep her.

Bonnie, for example, probably will be sold at the WestminsterLivestock Auction. She has a sore foot and lost a calf that was due this month. It won't pay to feed her until June, when she could have another calf and could start milking again, he said.

Farmers must look at each cow individually before deciding whether her production is too low to make it feasible to keep her, said Debbie Starner, a supervisor with the Dairy Herd Improvement Association, a farmer-owned group that compiles records on registered dairy cows.

A cow is bred within two months after giving birth, she said. During those two months, the cow should reach her peak milk production. She then will bemilked for seven of the nine months she's pregnant; she's given a rest during the last two months, Starner said.

Once a month, Starnervisits the Fritz farm to measure each cow's production. She hooks upa meter to the milking machine at a morning and afternoon milking tomeasure the number of pounds each cow gives, she said.

Most farmers want their cows to produce 60 to 65 pounds of milk a day, she said.

Milk is measured in pounds because of tradition and convenience,said Dr. Mark A. Varner of the Animal Sciences Department at the Cooperative Extension Service at the University of Maryland at College Park.

When milk was sold in cans, it was easier to tamper with the volume than with the weight, he said. And if farmers measured in gallons, they'd have to pour the milk into a certain size container to measure the volume; by measuring weight, they just put a container on ascale, he said.

Measuring in pounds continued, too, because the government established minimum prices based on 100 pounds of milk, Varner said.

Milk produced at the Fritzes' farm will go to one of three locations for processing, England said.

The co-op owns a manufacturing plant in Carlisle, Pa., where milk is powdered, condensed andsold to other manufacturers to make ice cream, chocolate candy or other products, she said.

The family's milk also could be sent to plants in Lancaster or York, Pa., where it will be made into cottage cheese, ice cream, yogurt, sour cream or dips, England said.

The Fritzes may taste some ice cream or cottage cheese from their cows' milk, but they won't buy their own milk in the store. They drink only rawmilk, carried from the barn to the house in pitchers, said Dan's wife, Sharon. Raw milk tastes thicker and richer than whole milk.

TheFritzes, like other dairy farmers in the Mid-Atlantic region, are receiving low prices for their milk this year, England said. Prices areclose to 1978 levels, she said.

Co-op members receive checks twice a month. As of August, the price was about $1.08 per gallon.

A year ago, prices were about 29 percent higher, the highest he had everseen, Dan said. But when the farmers' prices decreased, the price ofmilk in the store didn't, he said.

"That's not right. The consumer should benefit, too," he said.


Amount of sleep a cow needs a day: 7 minutes

Number of parts to a cow's stomach: 4

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.