(Posted Tue. Nov 6th, 2012)

Nov. 6: Today’s urban moms have questions about the food that they prepare for their families, and CommonGround Colorado helped provide answers for a group of Denver’s most influential “mommy bloggers” during a tour of Cleland Dairy. Providing the women and their children a first-hand look at an operating dairy farm, CommonGround Colorado staff and volunteers, with the help of the Western Dairy Association, helped find answers to a variety of questions about food and farming, thus helping the bloggers and their readers to enjoy food without fear.


“During the first few events we hosted, our volunteers opened an incredible dialogue with the Mile High Mommas and a variety of other Denver-area bloggers,” said Colorado Corn Growers Association CommonGround project lead Ann Cross. “The idea for this farm tour actually came from the bloggers who, after developing a relationship with the volunteers, asked for the opportunity to see a working farm, something most had never done. This ongoing dialogue, based on the many similarities shared by the women who grow food and those who buy it, has opened a channel that helps our volunteers reach so many more women with their stories through the blogs many readers already enjoy.”


To get an inside look at dairy farming, the area of agriculture which the bloggers had asked most about in prior conversations, CommonGround Colorado teamed up with Western Dairy Association Director of Producer Relations Bill Keating. Keating, who previously operated a milk processing plant, helped to arrange a tour for the group of Cleland Dairy and to answer questions during the event.


Josh Cleland, the dairy’s herd manager, escorted the bloggers and their families through the farm, assisting Keating in answering questions on growth hormone usage, cattle ration formulation and government programs supporting prices in the dairy industry.


The tour included a look at the newest additions to the farm - baby calves. Some of the attendees expressed concern that the calves were separated from their mothers so early and put in individual pens. Cleland explained that modern dairy cows, contrary to popular belief, are generally not attentive parents. Thus, calves must be separated so that farmers can properly care for them and ensure they receive proper nutrition. By separating the calves, dairy producers decrease the infant mortality rate to less than two percent, an extremely significant drop.


The tour also visited the milkers, where the group discussed feed rations, protein sources and antibiotic use. Here, Cleland explained that, not unlike humans, cows get sick and need medication to aid in their recovery. He noted that organic dairies, which cannot use antibiotics in the case of animal illness, often must sell cattle that have been left untreated and thus grown extremely sick. After examining the use and impact of antibiotics in dairy herds, some women who had previously favored the concept of organic dairy expressed that it actually seemed more humane to provide appropriate medical care than to allow the animals to suffer needlessly.


Cleland highlighted the importance of corn, particularly distillers dried grains, in their feed rations while the tour examined the feed station, where he demonstrated how he mixes food for the cows daily.


Finally, the tour concluded in the milking barn where new equipment had recently been installed. Cleland said that while the parlor may appear efficient, he hopes to continue modernizing as new technologies create innovative ways for farmers to keep costs down, for both themselves and consumers, while minimizing any stress the animals might feel.


Following the tour, blogger Chris Bird tweeted her impressions at @birdbanter, thus allowing thousands of others to share in the experience through social media. To view a prior post about CommonGround Colorado on her blog, click here.


To find out more about CommonGround Colorado, visit them on Facebook by clicking here.


CommonGround is a joint project of the National Corn Growers Association, the United Soybean Board and their state affiliates. To learn more about CommonGround, click here.