Greetings from spring in Minnesota. It’s slightly breezy and probably hit about 45 degrees here this afternoon with some April showers in the early evening.
It’s also one of the first days that has really felt like spring. That meant finding a few hours between farm stuff for cleaning out rain gutters and starting the endless chore of cleaning up our yard, picking up fallen branches, etc. Okay, on with the post for today… “Fat and Protein”
Even though I’m a runner, I’m not really a nutrition expert, so I don’t mean fat and protein in my own diet. I’m actually talking about milk! (My husband and I were discussing the current fat and protein levels our cows were giving this morning, which is where this whole post originates. I know you’re all jealous of such a riveting conversation. 🙂 )
The fat and protein content in our cow’s milk is something we monitor everyday on our farm. Before I talk about why this is important, I’ll give you some background.
First – what is milk made up of? This handy little graph provides the basics:
However, all cow’s milk doesn’t contain these exact percentages. The amount of fat and protein (or components) in milk varies based on the breed of cow giving the milk. It also depends on the cow’s diet.
The breed of a cow is probably the largest determining factor of the components her milk will contain. The Jersey breed (small, brown, and deer-looking) and Guernsey breed (light brown and white) naturally have the most fat and protein. Below the milk composition differences are summarized. You’ll notice lactose (milk sugar) is pretty similar across all breeds.
Source: University of Illinois
From the graph, you can tell Holsteins (black and white cows) actually have the lowest fat and protein content. On average they do give more milk than any other breed, but it’s less rich. If you want to read more and see pictures of these dairy breeds, have a look at this document from milkcow.org
Aside from breed, the feed that makes up a cow’s diet also greatly influences the composition of her milk. At our dairy farm, we work with a specialized cow nutritionist to make sure we’re feeding a balanced ration and giving our cows the best nutrition we can.
I posted about our cow nutritionist a while back if you want the full scoop. Feeding our cows a good diet is number one in importance because it keeps them happy and healthy.
Everyday we can easily check our milk processor’s website to see what the fat and protein content of our latest load of milk was. We need to note if it’s significantly lower than normal for our herd. If so, we may need to work with our nutritionist to make adjustments to the cows’ diet.
Dairy farms also get paid for our milk based on fat and protein, so it’s important for the long-term success and profitability of our farm to pay attention and manage these levels.
Remember from the graph above that milk is mostly water? While the water is important for fluid milk, it’s the fat and protein that determine how much butter, cheese, yogurt, etc the milk will produce. And that’s why milk with more components is worth more to the processor.
It was a step back week for my marathon training, and I had a long run of 10 miles planned. Somehow I just didn’t get to it on Saturday, so I knew I needed to do it early today to ensure it happened.
It was pretty uneventful as long runs go. 10.21 miles @ 10:05 pace. I sometimes feel like the nicest part of early morning runs comes once I’m done, and today that held true. 🙂 I took off my running shoes well before 8:00 a.m. and knew my run was already complete for the day. Always a good feeling.
I still do plan to recap my March training and mileage, but I haven’t officially added everything up yet. I do know I was well over 100 miles for March, so yay for a new monthly PDR!
Any milk questions for me?
If you’re also preparing for a spring race, how are things going so far?
2 weeks since Wellington went missing