Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The best part of summer? Ice cream.

It's really cool to go to the grocery store and see a product that you had a small part in making. That's why we love to buy Toft's ice cream. We know that milk from our cows helped make ice cream and fluid milk for Toft's. Now that it's summer, we look forward to enjoying lots of Toft's ice cream.

June is National Dairy month, and to kick it off, Progressive Dairyman is hosting the second-annual Flavor Face-Off to determine the ultimate flavor of ice cream. They've invited dairy farmers from across the country to participate, along with staff from their magazine. We're honored to be a part of it, and we're excited to promote our favorite kind of amazing frozen goodness.

The contest is pretty simple. Each participant picks a flavor of ice cream to represent. We chose Caveman Chocolate. (Read more about it and other great flavors on Toft's website.) Next, the flavors duke it out bracket style. During the month of June, internet voters determine the best flavors. When you vote, you can register to win free ice cream yourself!

We think our flavor is pretty great, and we hope you do, too! Toft Dairy is the only locally owned and operated dairy on Lake Erie between Cleveland and Toledo, and the oldest operating dairy in Ohio. With a track record like that, you know they must know their ice cream! They purchase milk from 22 local families, our included. We're proud to be part of the Toft family. We chose this particular flavor for one simple reason: chocolate. Caveman chocolate is full of fudge-filled chocolate chunks and swirls of thick chocolate fudge in dark chocolate ice cream. Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate.... need we say more? Vote for Caveman Chocolate here. It's so simple, even a caveman could do it.

Monday, May 30, 2011

I hope the stork brings a girl.

In the last post, we talked about A.I. and its benefits to the dairy industry. Today, we'll add another piece to the puzzle and discuss sexed semen, which can lead to a greater possibility of female offspring.

First, here's an important sidenote: only girl cows can produce milk. I'm sure that just completely changed the way you think about nature. :) Therefore, for a dairy farm, cows are the queens. Heifers, or females that haven't calved yet, are princesses. The profitability of a dairy farm relies on females' milk production. When a cow gives birth to a female, that female calf will likely eventually end up giving milk herself.

To increase the odds of having a female offspring, many farmers choose to artificially inseminate with sexed semen. This technology was developed in 1989 by scientists with the United States Department of Agriculture, and it has been readily available since the early 1990's.

So, just how can you sort something you can't even see? Well, scientists inject a dye into the sperm collection. It's fluorescent, and it sticks to the DNA in an amount proportional to the number of X and Y chromosomes in the sperm. X chromosomes (females) contain more DNA than Y chromosomes (males), so more dye sticks to the sperm cells that are carrying female chromosomes.

Next, the sperm cells are sorted. A laser lights up the dye, and the sperm gives off light proportional to its DNA content. The X sperm always glowers brighter, because it's carrying more DNA. The sperm is sorted into two different batches, allowing it to be packaged into doses according to the probable sex of offspring it will produce.

Species from cattle to rabbits to sheep to pigs have benefitted from this technology. On our farm, sexed semen has allowed us to produce more heifer offspring, which will enter our herd and eventually produce milk. It has increased our efficiency and allowed for a consistent supply of heifers. Does the stork really have anything to do with it? No. Science? Absolutely.