Many healthy and delicious foods that come from cows, including milk, cheese and yogurt, are staples in many of our homes. While some people opt for cow’s milk alternatives, a great number of us desire cow’s milk instead. A recent consumer survey of ours found that 62 percent of Americans only buy cow’s milk as opposed to other plant-based milks such as almond or cashew. It could be for a taste preference, tradition or for the hearty nutrition profile that cow’s milk offers.
It may make sense that high quality dairy products start with properly cared for cows. But what do dairy farmers do to ensure that their cows are well taken care of and that they produce the best milk possible? To learn more, we caught up with California dairy farmer Brian Fiscalini to tell us more about how he cares for cows and what consumers should know about the dairy business.
Q: How long has your family been in the dairy farming business and how have you seen the business change over the years?
A: The Fiscalini family has been in the dairy business for over 100 years in California. My great-grandparents dairy farmed in Cambria before relocating to Modesto in 1912. We have been dairy farming at the same location that my great-grandparents purchased over 100 years ago. My love of dairy farming has not changed, although the challenges and volatility of commodity prices have.
Q: What are some key challenges you have faced while being a dairy farmer and what did you do to overcome them?
A: We continue to clear up misconceptions that consumers may have about our practices and products. We use various platforms to share our story and remind consumers that the care of our cows and land help us produce safe, healthy and delicious dairy products. We create our own cheese on our farm in order to help our business grow and overcome swings in commodity prices.
Q: What farming technology most excites you and why?
A: There are so many technologies that farmers can use today that were not available even 10 years ago. We are currently looking at automation that can help us manage our costs while continuing to produce great products. We use individual cow monitoring software that allows us to manage each cow with respect to her needs throughout the year. We have a system that tracks the amount and quality of milk produced each day. Also, we have the ability to track the number of steps that a cow takes in a day.
Q: What do you think consumers know very little about dairy product production, but should know more?
A: I hope that consumers know how hard our family and our employees work to produce safe and healthy food. Our business never stops. Cows need to be cared for every single day and we do not take shortcuts on Christmas Day or any other holiday. We work until the job is done and that can vary with each new day.
Q: What do you love most about being a dairy farmer?
A: I love being able to watch crops grow in the ground that will then be used to feed our cows. I love teaching my children that caring for animals and producing food is part of our family tradition and they should be very proud of what we do. We are some of the most sustainable and innovative people in agriculture. If you think about the variety of products that come from milk, it is amazing: milk drinks, cheese, butter, yogurt, whey protein, lactose, ice cream and the list goes on.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
A: I would like people to know that dairy farmers are committed to caring for our animals, land and natural resources. Many dairy farms in the United States have been passed down for multiple generations. I just think it is remarkable that I have the opportunity to continue my family business and watch it evolve while remaining committed to the principles that have not changed: Care and respect for our cows, our people and the land.
We thank Brian for taking a little time away from his cows to answer a few questions for us. While we know cow’s milk is a regulated, safe and nutritious way to enjoy a beverage or meal, it is good to hear directly from a farmer – a person that has the most direct link to dairy production.