After a delayed and unusually cool spring, we’ve finally made it to June — the month where temperatures are finally starting to heat up. And what better way to remedy spiking temperatures than with a nice, big bowl of ice cream, especially in celebration of National Dairy Month?
Originally called National Milk Month, June was designated National Dairy Month in 1937 as a way to promote drinking milk. It was initially created to help stabilize the dairy demand when production was at surplus, but has now developed into an annual tradition that celebrates the contributions the dairy industry has made to the world.
For years, dairy products have been a staple in the diets of Americans and people all over the world. More than that, dairy farmers in Illinois — and across the country — are true stewards of the land. In the past 63 years, the dairy industry has reduced its carbon footprint by 63 percent with the help of improved cow nutrition, cow comfort, quality of the animals and other improvements.
In fact, compared to farms in 1960, U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics show that U.S. dairy farms today are producing almost three times more milk with about half the number of cows. In addition, milk performed better than other beverages in the 2010 Nutrient Density to Climate Impact (NDCI) Index, which compared nutrient density to climate impact.
But those accomplishments weren’t easy. Farming, especially dairy farming, isn’t an exact science. Record high feed costs and fluctuating milk prices during the last several years have made it more and more expensive to continue to operate successful dairy farms. Despite that, the nation’s dairy farmers were able to produce more than 200 billion pounds of milk in 2012 – a record amount. In 2010, Illinois dairy farmers produced 1,917,000 pounds of milk from the 98,000 cattle across the state.
All of that adds up to one thing: These amazing statistics are a testament to the integrity of the nation’s dairies, 97 percent of which are family-owned and well-connected to the communities around them.
Here in Illinois, dairy farmers also are doing their part to give back to their communities by answering consumers’ questions about how their milk and dairy products are produced. Dairy farmers are working with the Midwest Dairy Association to promote dairy products and help teach consumers how to incorporate them into a healthy diet.
They also are participating as host families for Illinois Farm Families’ Field Moms. Dairy farmers are inviting Chicago-area moms to their farms, allowing them to tour their farms and ask questions about how animals are raised and how milk is produced and sold.
In fact, Field Mom Farah Brown couldn’t say enough about the care the host family Dale and Linda Drendel give to the Holsteins on their Hampshire, Ill., farm.
“Seeing their farm and hearing them introduce us to their cows gave me such a sense of gratitude for their diligence and work ethic,” Brown said. “I loved seeing Linda Drendel interact lovingly with the cows and tell the story of how she nursed a calf back to health shortly after its birth. It’s more than evident they take great pride in this craft they have chosen.”
From continued stewardship of the land and sustainability, to working with consumers to answer their questions, Illinois dairy farmers are committed to producing the best product possible for those of us who enjoy a nice, tall glass of milk, a plate of cheese and crackers or a heaping bowl of ice cream. This June, during National Dairy Month, make sure you give them the credit they deserve and send out a big ‘thank you’ for all they do.