DAISIES – Field Trip to the Dairy


Daisies have been on the “Between Earth and Sky” journey for the better part of the year, so far. In this journey they have learned quite a bit about nature and America. Last week the Flower Friend characters in the story took a trip through Dairyland USA so we followed it up with a trip to our local dairy. Graff Dairy is a family owned business that has been in our town for 50 years. We were given a tour by Dave Nichols, who has been running the place for 38 years.


Graff Dairy owns 220 Holstein cows (kept on a farm 20 miles away). We learned they milk their cows every day, twice a day, at midnight and noon! Cows produce 10-15 gallons of milk a day but can not start producing milk until after they have had a calf. Each cow is milked for 9 months of the year and have a 3 month “vacation” each year while they are pregnant. So, 80% of the 220 are in production at any given time.

Graff Dairy feeds their cows “sweet feed” made from hay, oats, barley, corn and wheat. This makes their milk sweeter tasting than milk from dairies who feed their cows grass.


The process for getting the milk into bottles was pretty intense, but happened in a pretty small space and rather quickly. Graff produces 300 gallons of milk in an hour. They also make delicious ice cream every day.



This is the holding tank where milk is put at the beggining of the process. The tank can hold 2000lbs of milk. In order for the girls to grasp how much that was we told them a whale could fit in the tank…they “got it” after that. The tank is refrigerated and has a large paddle in it to keep the milk temperature regulated and even.


We learned a little about pasteruization (named after its inventor, Louis Pasteur) and homogenizing milk.

Pasteurization is a process by which milk is heated to a temp of a MIMIMUM of 161 degrees but usually around 167 degrees and then cooling it down to slow the spoilage process caused by the germs that grow in the milk. We learned the ideal temperature for milk is 38 degrees because at 40.5 degrees the bacteria in the milk will double every hour!

Homogenization is the process by which cream/fat is incorporated into the skim milk. Basically the milk is “squished” with 1700lbs per square inch of pressure (photo above is Miss I. about to get “homogenized”…she was “squished from each direction to illustrate what happens inside the machine). Ice cream is homogenized at over 3000lbs per square inch of pressure. Some people prefer skim milk to whole milk because it is lower in fat, but we learned the naturally occuring vitamins in milk are in the cream. So, higher fat milks don’t need added vitamins.

After learning about how milk goes from the cow and into bottles, we also learned a little about how they have to keep their equipment immaculate! Milk can only contain 5parts of “dirt” to every 1M parts. To put it in perspective, tap water averages about 30 parts of dirt per million and expensive bottled water about 20 parts per million! When the dairy is spot checked by inspectors, if they are even at 6 parts per million, they have to dump the entire 2000lb batch! Dave, showed the girls that stainless steel is REALLY easy to see when it is clean or dirty because when you press your fingers to it, it will leave a finger print. Even more crazy, was we were told that finger print alone was too much dirt for his milk!! The cleaning process takes longer, in his 12 hour processing day, than bottling the milk does. He also runs a wash of chlorine through his machines again each morning before the milk arrives at 2:30am, to make sure any dirt from the day before after the wash, isn’t in the machines!


The girls got a “pup cup” (small sample cup, often given to visiting pets) of their choice of ice cream flavors that day! Graff Dairy is pretty well-known locally for its amazing ice cream. The hour we were on our tour, there was a constant stream of cars at their drive up window of people ordering yummy treats….even on this COLD and rainy day!

While we would have liked to take a photo of the girls in front of the dairy’s sign, it was raining and about 35degrees out…so the photo above was taken off the web. It is a cute sign and a photo we would have loved to have! We would like to extend a HUGE thank you to Dave and the staff at Graff for their time and shared information!

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