Got milk? The Stock Show does

Posted Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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FORT WORTH -- How many stomachs does a dairy cow have?

If you can't answer that question, you obviously have not seen the Southwest Dairy Farmers milking demonstration at the Stock Show.

Of all the exhibits and demonstrations at the three-week event, few are seen by more people than the milkings that take place in a glass-enclosed area in the cattle barns eight times each day.

"Southwest Dairy Farmers is a nonprofit organization that works to educate the public about the benefits of dairy products," said Dan Kinnett, director of the SDF's mobile classroom program. "It's important that they understand that their domestic food supply is as safe as it has ever been."

At the Stock Show there is an area designed for the presentations, where the uninitiated can see how a cow is milked while a dairyman explains the process and provides information about dairy products.

"Anywhere there is a good crowd, we're willing to go," said Todd Griffin of De Leon, one of the presenters for the milkings.

Kinnett and Griffin are on the road most of the time, doing demonstrations for schoolchildren with one of the 14 mobile classrooms SDF has moving around the seven states it serves.

"The mobile classrooms are a full mini-dairy," said Kinnett, a former dairy farmer who has been with SDF for more than 12 years. "And we are pretty self-contained. We even carry our own feed and water."

Doing a show like Fort Worth requires about a dozen people to handle the presentations and the milking equipment. SDF maintains a herd of about 32 dairy cows to star in their shows.

But although the national dairy herd is dominated by Holsteins, the SDF has a different character.

"They are about 90 percent Jerseys because they are easier to handle on the trailer and they don't eat as much," said Kinnett. "The cows we use have to be very calm, and they have to be able to produce a good volume of milk because we do so many demonstrations."

The milkings at the Stock Show have been an enduring part of the event for a good reason: They are fascinating.

"Do you get four servings of dairy products every day?" Griffin asked the crowd.

He then went into a step-by-step explanation of how a cow is milked as the crowd watched a Brown Swiss and a Jersey being prepared for the milking machines -- a process that requires the milkers to first clean each teat on the cow's udder with a solution of iodine and skin softener.

"The iodine alone would dry the skin out, so we have to mix it with skin softener," Griffin said.

The milking demonstrations are especially good for a young audience, but Kinnett said they also want the message to reach parents.

"We will be going to seven different women's fairs in the coming year to teach them how to cook with dairy products," said Kinnett, who makes his home in Lake Eufaula, Okla. "I've always said if you don't have Momma, you don't have anything."

But, while the mothers may be the most important members of the audience, it's the kids who ask the best questions.

"We get everything from 'Is that a horse?' to 'Where do the babies come from?'" Kinnett said. "We tell them it is not a horse and that they should ask their mommas about where the babies come from."

Griffin has a different favorite question.

"They ask if chocolate milk comes from brown cows."

Oh, and by the way, a dairy cow has four stomachs.

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