Waterbeds, ice cream and family — All in a dairy tour!

By Joseph L. Murphy

Participants of the Iowa Grocery Industry Association (IGIA) annual meeting had the opportunity to tour two Dubuque County dairy farms Tuesday and learn more about where their food comes from. The tour, sponsored by the Iowa Food & Family Project along with Midwest Dairy Association, gave 20 visitors the chance to tour milking parlors, touch newborn dairy calves and learn more about milking robots and the future of dairies in Iowa.

A dairy cow watches as visitors tour a dairy near Dubuque, Iowa. (Photo Joseph L. Murphy)

A dairy cow watches as visitors tour a dairy near Dubuque, Iowa. (Photo Joseph L. Murphy)

The first stop on the tour was at the Reuter Dairy near Peosta. The family-owned dairy milks about 850 cows and produces about 2.7 million gallons of milk annually, according to Rick Reuter. The family prides itself on not only producing healthy, high-quality milk, but in making sure that the cows remain comfortable year round.

“We strive to run the dairy in such a way that consumers are confident in the both the product quality and the animal care,” Reuter told the tour group. “We focus on the end result of producing the safest, highest-quality milk for the consumer.”

The IGIA is a partner of the Iowa Food & Family Project and the tour allowed grocery leaders to gain a better understanding of farming.

A farmer describes the milking process to visitors. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy)

A farmer describes the milking process to visitors. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy)

Gary Munson, a representative from Kellogg’s USA, jumped at the chance to take the tour after watching a program on Iowa Public Television about a large dairy in Indiana.

“I was more impressed with what I saw today than even my expectations could match,” Munson said. ”For instance, the first place we went to was so clean, I can’t imagine how much time it would take to keep it like that. I was really impressed.”

The second farm the group visited was at the Hoefler Dairy near New Vienna. The family-owned dairy began in 1962 and sets itself apart by using three robotic milkers. The milkers allow the cows to decide when they want to be milked, which is usually three times a day.

“If the cow feels the need to be milked, she just simply walks to the robotic milker,” Joan Hoefler explained.

housed in free stall barns equipped with waterbeds and mattresses for the cows to lie on. The cows also have constant access to food and water.

Heidi Boehme, who grew up on a farm, attended the farm tours with her children to show them how farm families work together.

“Dairy is a big part of our life because my husband works for Wells,” she said. “Getting to see the process of how milk gets to our table interests me. It was also interesting to see that there is more automation today than when I was growing up on a farm. But, even with the automation, you can tell that farmers and their families play an active role.”

The tour ended with participants talking with the dairy farm families while enjoying fresh ice cream.

Originally published for the Iowa Soybean Association. Find more great stories at: www.iasoybeans.com/news