07 April 2008


We reached our goal of 300 respondents. Hooray, and we're all glad to be done with it. Now we just have to finish inputting, and analyze the data. The inputting will go fast, but with the end of the school year coming up, and a lot of writing deadlines I have, I doubt I'll get much beyond looking at frequency distributions before next fall.

At another level of the research, we toured a 1400 cow dairy CAFO yesterday. A fascinating operation--from the mortality compost pile (dead calve mixed with hay and manure) to the automatic milkers that pop off when the milk flow drops below 1/2 gallon per minute.

The farmer said the cows probably average 30 gallons each per milking (they measure by weight and by groups of milkers, rather than by individual cow), and are milked 3 times a day. So I estimate, roughly, 90 gallons per day over a 5 year milking period (after that they magically turn into hamburgers on my grill) equals 164,000 gallons per cow.

And the damn things eat better than you do, too. They eat a scientifically developed feed that is very nutritious, and which I can only assume costs a small fortune.

And, interestingly, in contrast to what I have been led to believe, the cattle were not chained up and stuck in one position. They were in large pens that allowed them to walk around, and had raised beds of sand that allowed them to lay down out of the muck, as well as access to water in raised troughs (that keep the muck out of the water). And the muck is squeegeed out during their milking each day.

Here's the part the economist inside me liked most: the squeegees are made out of old tires from earthmoving equipment. Some company in Michigan buys the old tires, cuts them into sections, and puts connectors that allow them to be attached to bobcats. A good case of the market using resources well, rather than wasting them.


James K said...

And yet, here in little old New Zealand we feed our cows or ordinary grass and produce IMO the best dairy products in the world.

Congratulations on your survey success.

James Hanley said...

"here in little old New Zealand we... produce IMO the best dairy products in the world."

Maybe your grass is actually extraordinary? Unfortunately, I just don't really have the expertise to compare. Perhaps we should organize an international dairy competition, and you and I can be the judges.

James K said...

I think its not that we have extraordinary grass, but rather that we don't have Iowa.