Homeschool: Dairy Farm Field Trip


Yesterday we enjoyed a very cool field trip to one of the largest dairy farms in America - Fair Oaks Farms!

Fair Oaks Farms is about a 2-hour drive from where we live, but it was worth the trip! This gigantic farm is nothing like the dairy farm I grew up on in Wisconsin, which at the time (20 years ago) was fairly high-tech and considered to be a large dairy farm, as the home to 130-200 cows.

Fair Oaks is home to 35,000+ cows, divided into 10 different barns and sheds. Cows don't have names, but instead are assigned 5-digit numbers. Each cow has a computer chip collar tag that can track milk production.

Cows are milked on a 70-cow "dairy go round" carousel that you have to see to believe! 40 semi-truck tankers of milk leave Fair Oaks every day!
There is a separate Birthing Barn, where visitors can watch a live birth. With 80 calves born each day, it's easy to see how they can plan this as a regular feature for every visitor to witness.
Those calves are put into calf hutches like this one - very similar to the ones on my family's farm growing up. Taking care of little ones like this one was my job - once in the morning and once at night. I only wish Fair Oaks Farms allowed visitors to be more up-close with the animals, but no touching is allowed (in fact, all visitors are kept behind glass or inside a tour bus when viewing the live animals, so there is no chance of contaminating the herd with outside germs - bio-security, they call it).
The interactive museum part of the tour was excellently done. This included a 3-D movie and numerous exhibits to teach us all more about cows, milk, calcium, and sustainable farming. Much of this was geared towards children, making this a great field trip destination.

We very much enjoyed our visit to Fair Oaks. My 3-year-old said his favorite part was to "see little calf come out of big cow!" I wasn't sure what he or my 7-year-old would think of watching a cow give birth, but they loved the experience.

As much as I hate to see small family farms being replaced by mega-farms, the technology to be able to run a farm on this scale is incredible to see in action.

This 5-minute clip shows more of Fair Oaks Farm - a "dairy adventure" that I highly recommend!


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