April 21, 2010 > Get Milk!
By Suzanne Ortt
Photos By Doris Nikolaidis
On a clear, partly cloudy morning (April 14), Ellie and Della visited Guy Emanuele, Jr. Elementary School in Union City. These unusual guests were part of a Mobile Dairy Classroom. Ellie is a Holstein cow, five years old, weighing 1800 lbs.; Stella is an 11-week-old Holstein (not Ellie's calf). These two bovines joined Jeff Byers for an outdoor assembly, one of several held or to be held at Tri-City schools during April. Byers is a dairy farmer with the Moon Glow Dairy in Moss Landing. Incidentally, the milk from Moon Glow has a local connection; it is processed by Berkeley Farms in Hayward.
The Dairy Classroom is a lively and free educational resource, sponsored by the Dairy Council of California. A 30-foot trailer, designed for demonstrations, was converted into stalls for Ellie and Stella and a milking parlor. When the door slides open, Ellie is visible in her stall. Byers' interactive approach shows students how milk starts at a farm and ends up in their school cafeterias.
Byers engaged two groups of students, totaling approximately 300, with a thoughtful and engaging conversation. Children now know how milk comes from dairy cows, and does not originate at the grocery store. Students watched with rapt attention as Byers demonstrated milking Ellie although he explained that at Moon Glow, mechanical milking devices are used. Dairy cows are milked once a day. Calves get milk from their mothers, as do most mammals.
Hands went up when Jeff asked, "What is the largest mammal on earth? The answer, given enthusiastically, was "the whale." The whale family consists of a bull, a cow, and a calf, just like the bovine family.
The next step was introducing Stella. Frankie was the lucky one chosen from the audience to help lead the calf down the ramp and to the playground. Cattle are seen but not generally touched. Touching was part of the program. All students had the opportunity to pet Stella. Overheard comments were, "What a cutie" and "That was weird." The students had even more fun giving Stella warm milk from her giant baby bottle.
Byers explained that cows eat hay and alfalfa plus raw vegetables. He engagingly described how cows digest their food by chewing their "cuds," utilizing multiple stomachs. This places them in the ruminant group. Sheep also belong to that group. Byers posed another question. Can you name another ruminant, also the tallest animal in Africa? The children knew the answer: a giraffe.
Student volunteers, Ishmael and Zoha, chosen from the audience, fed Ellie artichokes, broccoli, and lettuce. She also likes cauliflower but, due to its size, Byers carefully fed this to her.
Angela Morariu, assistant principal at Emanuele Elementary, remembered the day a dairy cow came to the former Alviso Elementary School in Fremont. This was in the 1960's, when she was in kindergarten. It was such an impressive experience that she wanted students at her school to experience it too.
Other upcoming visits by Ellie and Della include:
Monday, April 26
James A Graham Elementary, Newark
Tuesday, April 27
Tom Maloney Elementary, Fremont
Check out fun facts at www.dairyclassroom.ca and learn if cows sweat and other amazing information.
To ask if Ellie and Della can visit your school, visit their website: www.dairycouncilofca.org