Students get peek at inner workings of dairy

Leader Photo by Lee Pulaski Fancy Vele, right, tells a class from Keshena Primary School about the giant storage tanks where milk is stored until it can be transported elsewhere during a tour of Paiser Family Dairy on Friday.

Leader Photo by Lee Pulaski Tyrese Escalante, a third-grade student from Keshena Primary School, touches a mountain of ground corn during a tour Friday at Paiser Family Dairy.

Although Wisconsin is home to 77,000 farms, many children have never set foot on one.

Paiser Family Dairy in the town of Red Springs is trying to remedy that by inviting schools to bring their students to see how a farm operates and where much of their food originates.

Students from Gresham Community School’s homework club visited the dairy Thursday, and two groups of students from Keshena Primary School mingled with 500 dairy cows Friday.

This is the second year that Paiser employees have taken students on a tour of the farm.

“I had gotten the idea of having our local students, especially Menominee and Gresham, to come out because many of these kids have never been on a farm,” said Fancy Vele, a Paiser employee. “It’s a really good way to educate, and we’re still a smaller farm, and we take pride in that.”

The farm started in 1989 with Tim Paiser milking five cows, according to Vele. Today’s operation milks 500 cows.

The students saw some of the baby calves, listened via stethoscope to the heartbeat of a calf that was just 2 days old and fed some of the calves, although a few were nervous around the excited children.

Students also visited the adult cows in their stalls. Vele explained that all the cows were female, and when the students groaned in disappointment, she told them that females provide the milk that people drink.

The milking parlor also piqued students’ interest. They saw how farm employees milk the cows and the storage tanks where the product is kept until the milkmen come to collect it, which they do twice a day, according to Vele.

“These cows are getting milked three times a day by the same employees,” she said. “We’ve got some great employees and a whole family that works for us right down the road.”

After the parlor, students saw the mountains of feed stored on the farm for the cows. Vele noted that a light-colored mountain was ground-up corn, and the students got the chance to touch it.

They had to tread carefully near one barn where several heifers were close to giving birth, and they also saw the manure that had been cleaned from the barn go into a tanker truck for removal.

Jennifer Krueger, one of the Keshena Primary School teachers, said it’s important for students to realize that much of the food they eat originates on farms.

“They need to know the importance of the dairy industry,” Krueger said, adding that “it’s crazy to think about” the fact that most of her students had never been to a farm, despite the proliferation of dairies in Shawano County and other areas adjacent to the Menominee reservation.

Jamie Patton, agriculture agent for the Shawano County University of Wisconsin-Extension and one of the tour guides, echoed Krueger’s sentiment that children should know where their food originates.

“Besides, who doesn’t love cows?” Patton said.

The students who visit the farm have some good questions, Vele said.

“We’ve had students ask about the difference between female cows and male cows and what their purposes are,” she said. “They ask why one is this color and one is that color.”

Besides educating students, Vele said opening up the farm gives her employers a chance to tell their agriculture story.

“Dairy sometimes gets a bad name with mass productions,” Vele said. “I feel like that’s a big thing nowadays, but not all farms are mass productions. This is still a family operation. It’s just good to educate the kids and show them where their food comes from.”