Dairying of a different species

Samantha Mamarow, '15

May 20, 2014

Growing up on a small family dairy cattle farm I was not presented with many opportunities to travel, especially ones that would lead me more than an ocean away from home. It wasn’t until I went to college that I began to broaden my horizons and explore, as well as take advantage of the opportunities given to me. Who would’ve thought that one of these opportunities would bring me to Europe? I have been here for a week now and still can’t believe it. The past week has been jam-packed with tremendous and memorable experiences, including the host family visit. I would’ve never thought that I would go from milking cows to milking goats, although I don’t know why it never crossed my mind as both are very similar animals.

On Friday afternoon, Caelah and I parted from the rest of the group to head off to the city of Baarn, Netherlands, home of many cows, goats and sheep. We arrived at a milking goat farm currently milking 900 goats in a double thirty parallel parlor. Caelah and I asked many questions about the goats while receiving a tour of the farm and answering questions about America in return. We were asked if we wanted to help milk and of course we said yes, as not many people in America can say they have milked goats in the Netherlands.

Walking into the barn I noticed many similarities in management and housing in comparison to dairy cattle. To me, the goats are miniature cows, but instead of having four teats they only have two. This makes the milking process move quicker. The lactating goats were divided and grouped based on age and level of production for a total of five milking groups, much like any other dairy farm.  I found it very interesting that the goats milk for longer periods of time without giving birth and generally only have two kids throughout the course of their lifetime. We were done milking in about two and a half hours and had a nice dinner with the family.

Saturday morning we went off to a neighboring dairy farm to help with morning milking. I was very excited, as this was only my second time milking cows in a parlor. What an awesome experience. This farm was very similar to that of my farm at home in the way of number of cows and allowing the cows to go graze on the pasture. Having the opportunity to milk cows and talk with the farmer Saturday morning, and other area farmers, made it was easy to see how much they love the dairy industry. Driving around the countryside, seeing numerous cows grazing on such lush green pastures with wind turbines off in the horizon, was such a beautiful site. The smell of the fresh cut grass that encompasses the air in the Netherlands is one my favorite smells and reminded me of home just over an ocean away.

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