Hays USD 489 students were treated to a new educational experience during the last few weeks as a mobile dairy made its rounds to different elementary schools.
Made possible by Southwest Dairy Farmers — an alliance of dairy farmers that spans eight states — the 14 different mobile classrooms travel their perspective states educating approximately 1,000 to 2,000 students per week.
The mobile dairy visits the schools free-of-charge.
“We work for our dairy farmers,” said instructor Callie Toews, “with a purpose for education and promotion. We try to focus on school kids, but we do community events and fairs also.”
Toews said during the fall and spring, they have a show nearly every day.
In her presentation to Lincoln Elementary students Tuesday morning, Toews — and her Jersey cow, Jitterbug — educated the students on everything from the nutritional importance of dairy products to how much Jitterbug eats and drinks per day.
“She can eat up to 80 pounds of food a day and drinks up to a bathtub-full of water,” Toews said. “So a lot of food and a lot of water are consumed by these dairy cows so they can make milk.”
She also discussed how dairy farms are operated and the kinds of machines used to milk the cows.
Next, Toews prepared Jitterbug to be milked — showing the steps involved in sanitizing the equipment and the cow’s udder to avoid contamination of the milk.
“Aside from cleaning her, this tells Jitterbug’s brain that she is ready to be milked,” Toews said. “If we don’t clean her properly, if she’s scared or nervous or if she’s not feeling well, she can hold onto that milk. If she does that too long, she can become very sick.”
The students were able to witness the milk leaving Jitterbug through the milking claw and tubes, and they watched as it was collected in a large jar on the trailer.
Toews then explained the process of inspection, pasteurization and homogenization the milk goes through before it can end up in the grocery store.
“After that, we can bottle it up, and we can add chocolate or strawberry flavorings,” Toews said. “We can make ice cream, yogurt, cream, cottage cheese, sour cream, butter and whipped cream. All of those good things come from milk, and milk comes from cows like Jitterbug.”
Toews asked the students that every time they enjoy cheese pizza, ice cream or yogurt, to think of Jitterbug and the dairy farmers.
“I hope you learned a little bit about where milk comes from and where your food comes from, because that’s really important,” Toews said. “And I hope you’ll have three servings of dairy every day.”
Visit southwestdairyfarmers.com to learn more about the organization and its museum and mobile dairy classrooms.