About a month ago, I went to Wisconsin. Because life is busy and the world is full of so much distracting awesomeness, I haven’t blogged about it yet. But, let me tell you, it was a great trip. I spent a few hours on Saturday talking to some Wisconsin FFA Alumni Association folks about social media, and then the rest of my weekend (plus Monday) was spent having the real-life Wisconsin dairy experience.
What happens when an out-of-towner with little-to-no dairy background comes to Wisconsin?
For starters, I ate a ton of beef and cheese and drank plenty of good beer. (New Glarus Spotted Cow will always have a soft spot in my heart.)
They really like their beef in Wisconsin. I had a burger at the AJ Bombers in Madison, and a smoked brisket sandwich at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in small-town Wisconsin, both of which were wonderful.
And, cheese. Every meal I had in Wisconsin involved cheese, and some of them WERE cheese…as in, our entreé was cheese with a side of cheese, and crackers and some sort of beverage. The cheese was amazing, and I was lucky enough to come home with a few pounds of Wisconsin cheese that the wonderful Dairy Carrie sent with me.
Now, let me talk about Dairy Carrie for a moment. Carrie is awesome. She’s a down-to-earth, sassy, bright, fantastic lady. She’d give anyone the shirt off her back, unless they’ve ticked her off. Then she’d probably tell them, creatively, to go buy their own dang shirt. Her blog, The Adventures of Dairy Carrie, is one of the best dairy-related blogs out there. She’s dynamite at agvocacy, and she’s a wonderful friend.
She and her husband are also heavily involved in her husband’s parent’s dairy — which means, on top of day jobs, both of them are hands-on with milking and chores at the dairy. Dairy Carrie, true to her nature, wanted to make sure I got the FULL dairy experience.
This included waking up before dawn, bundling up, and rocking out to country music while I played Little Miss Milkmaid with Carrie. By the end of the morning milking, I had learned how to milk an entire side of the parlor on my own, and was fearlessly moving cows from the waiting pen into the parlor. (Apparently, this impressed Carrie. I didn’t bother to tell her that I don’t have the “scared of large animals” gene, since I also seem to be pretty fearless about horses too.)
We finished milking, went out and played around with calves and heifers, and then came the “YOU DID WHAT?!” moment of the trip. Some of my friends have seen the pictures, and some of my friends had serious concerns about what was happening in the pictures. Long story short: I pregnancy-checked a cow.
Please excuse the language that’s going to happen on this here blog now.
Now, there are a few way to “preg check” a cow. You can go in vaginally, but there’s some concerns about this. Contamination could be a major risk. That’s a sensitive area, and since just about any activity with cows automatically involves manure, you don’t want to risk any sort of mishaps that could introduce contaminants to the cow’s reproductive tract, or the calf inside. I’m sure there’s other reasons, but I’m not 100% sure of how accurately I can explain them, so we’ll leave it at that.
So, the typical way of checking whether or not a cow is pregnant is to go in rectally. Yes. You put your arm, in the cow’s rear. It sounds gross (and it is), but to be fair, you’re generally wearing a rubber glove called a “sleeve” that goes all the way up to your shoulder. You then feel the bottom wall of the GI tract, and can actually feel what’s going on inside of the cow’s reproductive system. This particular cow, a Jersey lovingly called “Hemi” is pregnant.
The whole experience was surreal. It was like, “Well, I’m standing at the back end of this cow.” Then, all of a sudden, it was, “Well, I have most of my arm inside of this cow.” Then, it became, “It’s really warm inside of this cow.” (Cows’ body temp runs about 101F, so it was REALLY warm compared to the nasty-low temperatures we had going on outside.) Then, it was over. And Hemi was upset with me, until I removed the sleeve and scratched her head.
Overall, I’d say I got a pretty good “real Wisconsin dairy” experience. BIG thank you to Carrie and her husband, Pat for hosting me. It was a great break from Kansas City and a GREAT addition to my “agricultural experiences” bucket list!