Here in Wisconsin, “June is Dairy Month,” is celebrated with great enthusiasm. Long known as American’s Dairyland, it’s even on our license plates, communities around the state have some type of event to acknowledge and recognize its largest agricultural sector. There are dairy breakfasts in nearly every county, cheese and butter days, dairy farm tours, and ice cream sundaes galore. Take your pick of dairy products, its promoted!
Here in Madison, the state capital, is no exception. The first Saturday in June, Cows on the Concourse is makes its annual appearance on the Capitol Square in conjunction with the weekly Dane County Farmer’s Market.
This is a chance for young and old to get up close and personal with dairy cattle and taste test products made from cows milk.
I found it ironic that here in liberal Madison, the cows were segregated by color! The black and white Holsteins had their own pen. Maybe it’s because they represent 90% of the dairy cattle in the country including Wisconsin. They are also larger than most breeds, with the average Holstein cow weighing in at fifteen hundred pounds and standing four feet ten inches tall at the withers. They are imposing beasts. Or maybe because Holsteins originated on the Continent. The Guernseys, Jerseys, Ayrshires, and Milking Shorthorn came from the British Isles. The Brown Swiss came from Switzerland.
The young woman in the photo below is calmly petting number 153, there are so many Holsteins they get numbers not names! The few Holsteins I was in contact with on the dairy farm where I grew up, had a mean streak. It would come out in the form of a strong kick to my shins by the right hind leg or she’d use her heft to squeeze me up against the adjoining cow. Ok, I admit, I’m biased!
This little lass had to climb nearly to the top to touch the cow’s back!
In same pen was this tiny, three day old Holstein-Angus cross calf. He napped through little kids extending their arms to pet his soft coat of hair. Even I thought it was cute!
The Other Breeds
In another pen, separated by a half of a city block, were the other breeds of dairy cattle. I gravitated to the Guernsey heifer, Kryptonite. It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a super heifer! And she has a name! For most of my growing up years on the dairy farm, we had Guernsey cows. They are smaller than the Holsteins with a gentle disposition. Oh, we had a few that could get ornery, they didn’t last long in the herd. Guernseys give milk high in butterfat, that at the time earned a bit of premium when used in making butter or cheese. Before I left home for college and the Army, a few Holsteins were brought into the herd. It was hard to find replacements within a days driving distance. To be honest, I’m glad I was gone, never did care for Holsteins.
This eighteen month old bred heifer was calmly resting and chewing her cud, even when little kids and moms petted her fawn colored coat.
This woman appears to be speaking to Kryptonite in endearing terms. The heifer is giving me a weary eye, wondering what I’m doing poking a camera lens through the corral panels. I quit taking photos and just watched people getting to know her, then I wished her well. She’ll have her first calf in six months or so and enter the milking herd.
Across the pen, one of the two Jersey cows, did not look like she was having a good time. She seemed to be grumpy and frowning all the time. Confetti 2 had a cute name with a number, another cow with a name! She would turn her head whenever someone approached her for a pet or ear scratching. I’m convinced that like humans, each cow has a distinct personality. Most Guernseys (and Jerseys) are docile and friendly with likable personalities. I liken them to the Brits I’ve met, easy going with a wry sense of humor!
Sassy Cow Creamery
Until the pandemic began, my Traveling Partner and I would make a yearly drive north of Sun Prairie to the Sassy Cow Creamery. There we would enjoy a dish of their fresh, made on site, ice cream and watch another batch being made in the attached production facility. We’d sit outside on one of the benches and devour our treat. If it was hot, we’d sit in the shade of the nearby shelter where kids would test their skill on one of the many pedal tractors.
Sassy Cow is owned and operated by two brothers and their families. They have two farms, one traditional and the other organic. All the milk produced on the farms are used in the products they sell in the store and other outlets in the Madison vicinity. On one of our visits, we went on a tour of one of the farms. It was very enjoyable, one of the brothers kids let the tour. They were knowledgeable and fun. If you find yourself in the vicinity, it’s well worth the stop.
Alice in Dairyland
Meet Julia Nunes, Wisconsin’s Alice in Dairyland. What started out in the 1940s as a beauty contest has morphed into being an application process and a job interview. In fact, when selected, Alice becomes a professional public relations employee for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture. Her mission is to promote agricultural products of all types at events in the state, nationally, and internationally. Alice’s term is one year that ends in July when a new Alice comes on board. Julia served two years due to the pandemic. So many activities and events were canceled or scaled back in her first year. During her brief talk, Ms. Nunes invited visitors to check out the cows and sample some of the products made with milk available in the nearby tents. Click here for more on Alice in Dairyland.
Across the aisle from where Alice in Dairyland was speaking, the Dane County Dairy Promotion Committee was grilling cheese sandwiches. My Traveling Partner and I couldn’t resist the smell so we stood in line to plunk down our $3.00 for a speciality cheese (Munster) sandwich. We each ate half, enjoying the warm, tasty sandwich on the cool, cloudy day.
A Capitol Experience
After checking out the Cows on the Concourse and half the farmers market, a few drops of rain fell from the sky. We easily finished the rest of the market and made it our car before it turned into a light rain. It rained off and on for the rest of the day. Glad we got our cow fix before it started.
That does for this week. Join me next week for another June in Dairy Month event.
Until then, happy travels!