By: Sarah Haile, Sydnie Matkins, Jesslyn McCartney, and Katie Belesimo
Milk is any pale liquid produced by the mammary glands of mammals and is made up of four basic components: fat, lactose, protein, and water. The amounts of these substances vary depending on the cow breed, time of collection, diet, and farm.
The first couple milkings secreted after calving are made up of colostrum. Colostrum is rich in immunoglobulins, or antibiotics, which benefits the calf immensely. For this reason, humans don’t consume the colostrum. Instead, it is given to the calves to boost their immune systems and accelerate growth. After the cow gives birth, the milking period lasts for about 305 days,which is the standardized lactose time, with a two month dry period before the next calf is born. The milk is transported to a dairy plant, where it is pasteurized, as required by the FDA’s Pasteurization Milk Ordinance (PMO). It is then distributed to the stores, where consumers may access the dairy products.
While milk production is not the first thing that comes to mind when most people think of Virginia’s agriculture commodities, the state’s dairy community ranks third in comparison to other aspects of Virginia’s agricultural programs. Virginia Tech’s agricultural program located at Kentland Farms provides for some of the milk and other dairy products the cafeterias uses. Learning more about where dairy products, more specifically milk, comes from, people can now understand and gain a greater knowledge about a key aspect of their diet.