The Youth Development Council (YDC) of Greene County hosted its annual summer camp this month for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing kids together to learn about fishing, sports, agriculture, music and more. Last summer, volunteer organizers did their best to stay in contact with 53 students and their families by mailing out monthly activity boxes—complete with healthy snacks—but everyone was pleased for the opportunity to come back together this year for a real in-person camp experience.
On Tuesday, June 15, Annie Cekada of Southland Dairy Farmers came to Dover-Foxcroft farm in Ruckersville, bringing her Jersey cow, Clover, for a milking demonstration. Southland is an alliance of dairy farmers from Texas, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Virginia, Kentucky and North Carolina whose mission is to provide consumer education in nutrition and promote dairy product use.
“Jersey cows give us a higher butterfat milk … which is important for us to make all the cream products (like) sour cream, cream cheese, butter and ice cream,” Cekada said.
Clover weighs roughly 900 pounds and gives up to five or six gallons of milk per day. A Holstein—the more traditional-looking black and white dairy cow—can weigh as much as 2,000 pounds and produces 10 to 12 gallons per day. Other dairy cow breeds include Ayrshire, Guernsey, Brown Swiss, Milking Shorthorns and red and white Holsteins.
“One little eight-ounce glass of milk can give us nine essential nutrients: vitamin A, vitamin D, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin B12, phosphorous, potassium, calcium and protein,” Cekada continued. “Everybody needs to get three servings of dairy a day.”
Cekada went on to enumerate the benefits of milk in a healthy diet; the processes dairy farmers use to ensure happy and healthy cows; the timeline by which dairy cows have calves and begin to produce milk; and the different methods of milking depending on the size of the farm. She then hooked Clover up to a milking machine and filled up a jug with fresh milk as the children watched and asked questions.
“If any of you ever get to meet one of these dairy farmers—and I know there’s a few of them right here in this group—please tell them thank you, because they work really hard every day to make sure that we have milk and dairy products,” Cekada concluded. “These cows have to get milked twice a day every day, so that means they get milked on Christmas; they get milked on the farmer’s birthday; they get milked on the Fourth of July—when it’s 100 degrees outside or when it’s 5 degrees outside.”
The campers were treated to Farm Bureau keepsakes and fresh ice cream after the presentation.
“The children are having a great time; it’s the first time they have been able to be together as a free group since the after-school program was shut down by COVID in March 2020,” said Bert Nye, who serves on the YDC advisory council.