Hundreds made their way to a southern Alberta dairy farm over the weekend, for a unique opportunity to see where their milk comes from.
“Less than two per cent of the population has anything to do with agriculture nowadays, so we’re just trying to make public awareness,” Michael Van Den Dool, a delegate with Alberta Milk said.
The purpose of the event was to make consumers think a little differently when they walk down the dairy aisle at the grocery store.
For eight-year-old Bria Vossebelt, it was her first time on a dairy farm and it only took one word to describe her experience:
“Fun!” she exclaimed.
Van den Pol Dairy Farm operates near Coaldale, around 20 kilometres outside of Lethbridge. It’s one of 520 dairy farms in Alberta.
Over the weekend, hundreds were served breakfast and had the chance to get up close and personal with some of the cows behind the milk cartons.
Delegates from Alberta Milk were also on hand to clear up any misconceptions and answer questions.
“The biggest thing is how we treat our animals,” Van Den Dool said. “They think they should still be on pasture and a lot of old-fashioned ideas, I think, are still out there.”
According to Alberta Milk, Canada has some of the highest standards in the world for milk safety and quality. This includes no antibiotics or synthetic growth hormones.
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Guys Van den Pol has been in the business for 18 years. He has more than 70 cows, producing 3,500 litres of milk a day.
“My alarm is at 5 o’clock, so I’m at the barn at quarter after five getting the cows ready for milking,” he said.
But being a dairy farmer involves a lot more than just milk.
“It’s the whole breed part, your next generation of cows and the bulls you choose,” Van den Pol said. “We do quite a bit of selection on genetics.”
Van den Pol breeds Holsteins, easily recognized for their black and white markings.
“They have more capacity to produce more milk and that’s what it all comes to,” he said.
They’re also the most common type of dairy cow in the province.
“Holsteins are dominant in Alberta, probably over 90 per cent,” Van Den Dool said.
During the day, the public also had the opportunity to watch a milking demonstration and tour the barn, all in an effort to give consumers confidence in where their milk comes from.