Got Milk? Part 2 – Lone Oak Farms

Last week, I told you about my visit with Eat’n Park’s dairy supplier, Turner’s Dairy.  After I toured their operation, they took me to Lone Oak Farms to meet one of the farmers that supplies them with milk.

Lone Oak Farms in Westmoreland County, PA has been one of Turner’s milk providers for over 50 years.  Owned and operated by 4 generations of the Carr Family, Lone Oak supplies milk from their 180 Holstein cows.  Chuck Carr gave me some insight into the milking process.

The barn and silos at Lone Oak Farms

The cows at Lone Oak are milked twice a day, at 1 AM and again at 1 PM.  The farm’s milking parlor is set up to milk 32 cows at a time.  Each cow wears a transponder “necklace” that is registers the cow as she comes into the parlor.  Once in place, each cow is fitted with the milking machine, and in 5-8 minutes, she’s done!  In all, it takes the Carrs about 3 hours to get all of the cows through each milking.

One set of stalls in the milking parlor. Each side holds 16 cows.

Milking Machine

I wanted to know more about the animals, so Chuck explained: The Carrs raise Holsteins because out of all the breeds, they provide the best fluid milk.  Some farms raise Jersey cows, which produce a richer milk with higher fat content that is better for cheese production.  Holstein cows start producing milk around age 2, after the birth of their first calf.  They typically produce milk until about 10 years of age, though most of the cows at Lone Oak are around age 6.

One of Lone Oak’s Holstein cows

I was surprised at how regimented dairy farming has to be.  The cows need to be milked every twelve hours, regardless of what else is going on at the farm.  Turner’s picks up milk from Lone Oak every other day – and the farm can only store a little over 2 days worth of milk.  That means that when “Snowmageddon” hit in February 2010, Chuck and his family had to clear not only the lane leading up to the farm, but also all of the local roads in between the farm and the area’s main road so that Turner’s trucks could get in to pick up the milk on time.  All the while, the daily milkings and other tasks at the farm had to be carried on as usual.  There’s no rest for the weary! But Chuck takes it all in stride, reciting one of his father’s favorite sayings: “Work, give milk, or get out!”

My visit to Turner’s Dairy and Lone Oak Farms gave me a whole new appreciation for the milk that I enjoy every day.  I take pride in knowing that Eat’n Park is not only using the highest-quality milk, but at the same time, we’re supporting local farmers by purchasing milk from Turner’s.

To learn more about Turner’s Dairy, visit their website at http://www.turnerdairy.net/

Until next time,
Jamie

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