Youth get a taste of dairy at Exploration Days

The first annual Michigan 4-H Exploration Days session, "Life on the Dairy Farm," brought together 27 youth, ages 11 to 19, to learn what it is like to own and operate a dairy farm.

The first annual Michigan 4-H Exploration Days session, “Life on the Dairy Farm,” brought together 27 youth, ages 11 to 19, to learn what it is like to own and operate a dairy farm.

The session began with a tour of the Michigan State University (MSU) Dairy Farm, where participants had the opportunity to pet the dairy cows and see different types of feed and how they were stored. At the end of the tour, they watched the cows being milked from a window overlooking the milking parlor.

Next stop was the MSU Dairy Store, where youth learned how milk is made into ice cream and cheese. Once back in the classroom, the participants enjoyed ice cream from the Dairy Store while listening to Michigan dairy farmer Monica Crandall speak about her dairy farm in Battle Creek, Mich. Also, MSU animal science student Rosemary Rice gave good advice on dairy farming. Crandall showed participants the Web site www.dairyfarmingtoday.org, which includes interactive games and a tutorial of a teen’s perspective of her dairy farm.

The second day, participants split into groups of four to play the fast “moo”ving board game Life on the Farm, which presents real family farm mishaps for an “udder”ly unpredictable, fun spoof of life on a dairy farm. The game enhances critical thinking and money and math skills, as players race against each other to be the first one to “retire.”

After playing the board game, Julie Moore, MSU Department of Animal Science lab coordinator, spoke about the department, offering tips and answering many questions. Participants received information about the MSU Department of Animal Science and looked at Web sites for the department (www.ans.msu.edu), MSU (www.msu.edu) and other MSU-related sites.

Each participant received a certificate, a “Got Milk” pen and a drawstring backpack, items graciously donated by the United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM). UDIM is the umbrella organization for the Michigan Dairy Association and Dairy Council of Michigan. These nonprofit organizations provide dairy product promotion and nutrition education services.

Participants’ remarks about what they liked best included, “Playing the farming game and eating the ice cream/seeing where it is made,” and “I especially liked going to the Dairy Farm and watching them herded in to be milked." One participant stated, “It was a lot better than what I thought. I didn’t know they had such a well-planned and laid-out (MSU Dairy) farm.”

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