Twins are very unusual in cattle, and if you’ve taken a tour of Hansen’s Dairy, you know that of the 200 calvings each year at Hansen’s, about five sets of twins will be born. Female twins born at Hansen’s will get matching names. For example, names of the female sets of twins on the farm have included Flip and Flop, French and Fry, Shoe and String, and Lois and Lane.
But when a heifer and bull are twins, that heifer may be sold and raised for beef production instead of becoming a milking cow at Hansen’s Dairy. This is because 90% of the time that heifer will be sterile (unable to get pregnant). If she can’t get pregnant, she won’t be able to have a baby and produce milk.
When we tour guides tell our guests about this phenomenon, they often ask what causes this. After a little research, I found that these sterile heifers are called freemartins and that the heifer’s sterility is caused by blood vessels becoming interconnected between the heifer and bull. The blood then flows from one twin to the other, and male hormones like testosterone circulate and interfere with the heifer’s sexual development. The male hormones then masculinize the female twin, and the result is a sterile female.
Listed below are several interesting facts about freemartins.
· For the most part, the male twin is largely unaffected by sharing blood with his sister.
· Freemartins will have masculinized behavior and non-functioning ovaries.
· These heifers will behave and grow in a fashion similar to castrated male cattle (steers).
· It is very difficult to determine by palpation if the heifer will be fertile until she is about 6 months old.
· At any age, a simple blood test can be done to detect the presence of male Y-chromosomes in the white blood cells of the heifer to determine if she is sterile or not.
· In about 10 percent of different sex twins, no fusion of blood vessels takes place and the female remains fertile.
· In fraternal twins, it’s possible to have two Holsteins with different colors. The photo shown is a Black & White Holstein with a Red carrier gene. She was bred to a Red & White bull and had a Black & White/Red & White twins.
· Freemartinism is the normal outcome of mixed-sex twins in all cattle species and also occurs in sheep, goats and pigs.
About 200 calves are born each year at Hansen’s Dairy, and Herd Manager Blake Hansen serves as a type of cattle ob-gyn for the expecting cows. While difficulties during labor are uncommon, difficult labors are very hard on the cows and can lead to diminished milking productivity and decreased fertility. For these reasons, Blake keeps a close eye on the cows near the end of their 9-month pregnancy.
Though each cow is different, Blake will see several indications that a cow is close to labor. In the week before calving, her feed intake decreases and her udder will start to swell. Young heifer’s udders can start swelling as early as 1 month before labor. Several days before labor, the ligaments on the tail head cave in slowly, then drastically when labor is only hours away.
During the first stage of labor, the calf is being forced toward the birth canal and the cervix is beginning to dilate. Because of the dilation, the base of her tail may appear to have a kink in it. At this point, the cow will be moved inside the barn to the maternity pen so she can deliver her calf in a dry, clean space.
Shortly after, the water bag will appear from the vulva. It will resemble a small reddish-brown balloon filled with water, or the bag may burst inside her. When this bag breaks, the cow will feel a release of pressure and she’ll get up to investigate. If she makes no progress for a half-hour after the water bag has appeared or burst, Blake will help the cow with her delivery.
During the second stage of labor the contractions become strong and coordinated. They will come 3 to 5 minutes apart. The cow will often lie on her side begin to push. She will be visibly straining.
Within an hour after the water bag has appeared, two small white hooves should emerge from the vulva while still in the embryotic fluid bag. After a few minutes, the nose will follow, then the shoulders, body and hind legs. The cow will immediately stand and turn to clean the calf with her tongue.
80% of births are unassisted and calves will enter the birth canal correctly, with their front feet first and nose between their knees. But sometimes, the calves may have limbs twisted, be backwards (breech) or too large.
The third and final stage of labor is the passing of the afterbirth. The cow’s uterine contractions will continue in order to expel the remaining fetal membranes. This will last anywhere from 1 to 12 hours.
Some tour participants are lucky enough to witness a calf being born. It’s wonderful to see the miracle of life before your eyes!
Making butter is a fun, easy experiment — it’s educational and delicious. Try this at home with your kids. No old-fashioned butter churn required!
This activity will yield just enough butter for a single piece of bread or several crackers. For larger amounts of butter, use more heavy whipping cream and a mixer to thicken the cream. As a bonus, you can also make your own buttermilk by following these directions.
To start, purchase a quart of heavy whipping cream from Hansen’s Farm Fresh Dairy.
Pour 2 tablespoons of the heavy whipping cream into a small sealable container (preferably glass, like a baby food jar).
Seal the container and shake it vigorously for 3-5 minutes. The cream will start sticking to the sides, but you’re not done yet. Suddenly, a chunk of light, fluffy butter will clearly separate from the watery buttermilk and you’ll be able to hear it start slapping around in the jar. Once you hit this point, it’s important to stop shaking the jar (don’t over shake). The cream turns to butter because of the agitation and the warmth of your hands.
The butter isn’t ready to eat quite yet. Drain the buttermilk (the excess liquid) from your container. Next, spoon up the butter left in your container and dip it into cool water to rinse the remaining buttermilk from the butter.
When the excess water is gone from the butter, sprinkle on a small amount of salt, or even some fresh herbs, and spread it onto your bread or crackers. Enjoy your homemade butter!
To store leftovers, put the butter in a sealable container and refrigerate it.
CareerCast.com recently posted their annual listing for the 200 Worst Jobs in America for 2013. The rankings were based on five factors: physical demands, work environment, income, stress and hiring outlook. “Dairy farmer” was listed as No. 6. So what do the farmers at Hansen’s Farm Fresh Dairy have to say about that?
“If everyone loved their job as much as dairy farmers, there wouldn’t be such a list,” says Blake Hansen, herd manager.
Indeed. Working with cows can be very satisfying and rewarding, and a dairy farmer has to be completely committed to his craft in order to be successful. Like other self-employed people, their whole life revolves around their business. They do what they love to provide a nutritious food group to feed America. Their livelihood relies on those animals staying alive and healthy for years. If a farmer takes proactive steps to maintain the health of his cows, he maximizes his chances of success. If he takes care of the cows, they will take care of him.
Let’s address the factors that went into creating this worst job list.
Physical demands. Dairy farmers milk their cows at least twice a day, feed them three times a day, and care for them around the clock. They deal with inclement weather, delivering calves, heavy lifting and being on their feet all day. But Blake says the physical demands are nothing compared to the mental effort. Keeping track of the needs of 375 animals in different life stages is mentally taxing.
Work environment. OK, sometimes the smell is a little overwhelming. (You get used to it.) But who wouldn’t love the wide open spaces a farm provides? The steady supply of milk right outside your door? The opportunities for your kids to learn the value of family and hard work? Our small-scale farm (375 cows from newborn to 10 years old) allows us to get to know each cow by name and temperament. Blake knows who likes to be first in the milking parlor, who loves her tail rubbed and who is ready to calve. Imagine working with a group of girls with very unique, individual personalities, and not a catty one in the bunch!
Income. We’ll agree with this one. Many small dairy farms have had to sell out because of high input costs (feed and fuel) and low income (market prices for the milk). Twelve years ago our family took a financial risk by investing in facilities and equipment to bottle our own milk, and it has paid off in a big way. But we know it would be much harder for single-family farmers to put in that kind of time, money and effort. We are grateful to be able to support five families with the size farm we have.
Stress. Every job has its ups and downs. The death of an adult cow who you saw being born, trying to get fieldwork done ahead of the rain, working side by side with family members, and managing employees can all be stressful. There’s very little vacation time. But there is nothing like the feeling of seeing a cow nursing her newborn calf that you helped deliver overnight. The life cycle is renewed, and it’s wonderful to think about that calf’s potential down the road. Our oldest cow has produced enough milk in her lifetime to fill four semi-trailers. And she’s still going.
Hiring outlook. Land prices around here have skyrocketed, so if you don’t already have a farm in the family that will be passed down to you, getting into the business by yourself is financially tough. And with large operations streamlining milk production, jobs are harder to come by. But hey, if any of you are looking for a job in the dairy industry, we usually have something available!
So, we would argue with dairy farming’s placement on the worst jobs list. The proof is bottled in a jug on your table with our name on it.
There is a global debate about raw milk happening. In several countries, including the U.S., there are serious conversations taking place about whether people should drink, and especially whether they should be able to purchase, raw milk. The point of this post is not to advocate for or against either side. The purpose is to provide you with information and to let you know our policies and why we have them.
First, a few definitions. Pasteurization involves heating milk (or any food or liquid) to a certain temperature and then immediately cooling it to slow the growth of microbes and bacteria. This keeps the product from going bad as quickly as it might otherwise. High temperature, short time (HTST) pasteurization, which is what we use at Hansen’s, kills 99.999% of viable micro-organisms in the milk (like yeasts, molds, bacteria, and pathogens). Just a reminder – although we DO pasteurize our milk, we do not homogenize it (shake that jug, folks!).
When people talk about “raw milk” they mean milk that has not been pasteurized or homogenized. Until the 1890s, everyone drank raw milk because pasteurization wasn’t common practice yet. Pasteurization became widely practiced after the development of germ theory and the discovery of bacteria. It was thought that some diseases common in cows were transmitted to humans in raw milk. Since not every farmer’s milk could be tested, it was considered safer to pasteurize all of the milk.
Some people believe that pasteurization damages nutrients in the milk (such as calcium) and kills “good” bacteria that are beneficial to the digestive tract and our immune systems. The argument for raw milk is that these good bacteria help maintain a healthy balance in our bodies and make our immune systems stronger.
Proponents of raw milk believe that if it has been “produced under sanitary and healthy conditions” it is safe and even healthy to drink (Campaign for Real Milk). An important point is that even people who advocate for raw milk believe that for it to be considered safe, the milk must come from cows that are “healthy (tested free of TB and undulant fever) and do not have any infections (such as mastitis).” Raw milk should come from cows fed grass, hay, silage, and only a little bit of grain; the cows should be milked in a clean area and the milk should be refrigerated right away.
There are three primary sources of contaminants in milk: from within the cow’s udder, from the outside of the udder, and from handling and storage equipment. Experts agree that if a cow is sick, there is bacteria in her milk. But in a healthy cow, the milk in her udder is virtually sterile. Even in healthy cows, some bacteria are present in different parts of the teats, and that bacteria can enter the milk. But it’s usually in very low levels in a healthy cow.
Why the debate? Well, you can see that raw milk has to come from pretty special cows and special farms. Most large scale, commercial dairy operations are not going to have the kind of conditions that were just described. Only 28 U.S. states allow the sale of raw milk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration recommend not consuming raw milk. The CDC notes that 79% of disease outbreaks associated with dairy between 1998 and 2011 were due to raw milk or cheese.
Where do we stand at Hansen’s Farm Fresh Dairy? Well, first off, our cows are healthy and well-cared for. Our facilities are very clean. But we do not sell raw milk and we do not plan to sell raw milk. Most dairy farmers don’t want to put themselves at risk for liability. It’s also bad for the dairy industry as a whole, because if there was an outbreak of sick people, the media fallout would damage an industry that already has a shaky public perception. The problem is that it depends on the consumer to store and drink it safely. People can buy raw meat or eggs because the consumer can cook those foods properly to kill any bacteria. With raw milk, we don’t have safeguard. Unpredictable, unpreventable, uncontrollable things happen during milking time that can affect the bacteria content in the milk. For example: if the cow kicks off her machine, it becomes a vacuum cleaner for whatever is in the area. That’s why we drink pasteurized milk.
At Hansen’s Farm Fresh Dairy, we provide our customers with a high-quality product. Our cows are treated well and not given any hormones or antibiotics in their feed. We treat the milk as minimally as possible – very quick pasteurization and no homogenization – because we want it to be fresh, delicious, and healthy.
We don’t believe the health debate should be between pasteurized and raw milk. We believe it should be between pasteurization and homogenization. In other words, raw milk proponents blame pasteurization for everything. Maybe they should be blaming homogenization instead. Some people who claim to be lactose intolerant can drink our milk, and we think that’s because of the damage done to milk via homogenization. Read more about homogenization in our blog post about the topic.
You may have noticed a new product in the Hansen’s stores recently…or perhaps a new aroma – coffee! We are now carrying coffee from Sidecar Coffee Roasters, a new and very local business in Cedar Falls. We’ve had a lot of questions about the new coffee, so we thought we’d take the opportunity to tell you a bit more about Sidecar and the man behind the whole operation. This is the first in a series of features that we will post on the product lines we carry at Hansen’s stores. Aaron McNally, local poet, writer, grad student, and Moo Roo employee, wrote this feature on Sidecar.
When Jed Vander Zanden sets out to roast a batch of coffee beans, he has a lot on his mind.
“Every time you get a different coffee you have to figure out how to develop it,” he explains. “The longer you roast it, you gain some things and you lose some things. It’s a matter of finding the balance of time and air and heat to really get it where you actually nail it. You go way too dark, you get that carbony bitter dirt flavor. If you don’t go dark enough, it’s equally bad.”
The Ethiopian bean he’s working with today “is a wild coffee, it’s funky. It’s really good. I’ve been trying to figure out how to roast it now for it seems like forever. It’s been fun—it’s a real challenge. I’ve gotten to where I actually think it tastes good, it’s just this never-ending pursuit of making it better.” What are his goals for this particular bean? “I just wanna see if I can tweak the profile a little bit. Maybe stretch it out a little longer or speed it up. see if I can get a little more balance, a little more body, a little more sweetness. Which is a little harder in a really dark roast.”
Jed can perfectly control the freshness of his product by constantly monitoring and refreshing his inventory. His small batch coffee stands out in stark comparison to nation-wide suppliers.
Jed prides himself on controlling every element of his roasting process, from selecting the perfect beans to making sure he has the freshest coffee on the shelf. This is something that only a local, small roaster can do to perfection. In a larger operation, “the level of precision that they achieve is not anything like this,” he says. “I can adjust and modify the profile within ten to twenty seconds, just by controlling the air and temperature. The amount of variability I can create with this type of roaster is just entirely different.”
In addition, Jed can perfectly control the freshness of his product by constantly monitoring and refreshing his inventory. His small batch coffee stands out in stark comparison to nation-wide suppliers. With larger operations, “we’re talking about millions of pounds a day being roasted. Then it goes to a warehouse. Then it goes to a distribution center. Then it goes to a secondary place before making it to the shelf. Who knows? It could be three months, it could be nine months old. Coffee is perishable, like anything. The flavor compounds, the essential oils, they all dissipate, they go rancid.”
Jed says that the “sweet spot” for coffee freshness is about one to three weeks. Every bag that he has on display at Hansen’s is stamped with the roast date, so that our customers can determine for themselves whether the product is fresh enough for their liking.
“People who like really good stuff, care about it being local, people who want value but aren’t opposed to paying for quality. That’s Hansen’s.”
Beyond that guarantee of freshness, Jed is also very excited to be selling at Hansen’s Outlet and MooRoo stores for other reasons. He says that Hansen’s customers are the perfect customers for his coffee: “People who like really good stuff, care about it being local, people who want value but aren’t opposed to paying for quality. That’s Hansen’s. Really good milk, cheese, eggs, butter—all those things. Everything Hansen’s provides is stuff that I want to buy. Every week, for my shopping, I have my Hansen’s list. There isn’t a better place for this coffee than Hansen’s.”
In particular, Jed is a fan of Hansen’s whole milk, and prefers it to Half & Half in his coffee. “The milk makes this coffee taste so good. It adds a whole depth of sweetness. I always think that the fat content of Half & Half kind of coats the roof of your mouth, limiting the palate. But the whole milk seems to mix in perfectly.”
Vander Zanden moved to Cedar Falls with his wife, a professor at UNI, two years ago. He has lived in Indiana, Colorado, and D.C., though he grew up here in the Midwest—in Wisconsin. He’s very excited to be in an area where local businesses seem to be popping up and thriving. His coffee business seems to be doing very well here. “I’m loving that it’s growing organically, slowly and steadily, by word of mouth,” he explains.
Come meet Jed on March 16th at Hansen’s Moo Roo location. He’ll be performing a tasting from 1-3 p.m., and will be happy to answer any questions and explain more about his roasting process.
There is actually a lot of confusion between the terms “lactose intolerance” and a “milk allergy” or “dairy allergy.” So in this post we’re going to try to clear it all up for you. First, a couple of definitions.
An intolerance to a food or group of foods is a physical reaction that does not involve the immune system. Many food intolerances stem from something missing in the digestive tract to help a person break down that particular food. Or there might be a reaction that occurs when that food is being digested that is unpleasant to the eater.
So: In order to digest lactose, the carbohydrate in cow’s milk, the body uses an enzyme called lactase. If a person does not have enough lactase to break down the lactose, they will have a reaction (like diarrhea, abdominal pain, or gas). That is lactose intolerance.
An allergy, on the other hand, is something that involves an immune system response and/or the body releasing histamines (chemicals in the body that cause allergy symptoms like runny noses, sneezing, or a rash). When a person has an allergy to something, their body has an immune response and releases chemicals to “fight” that thing.
So: People who are allergic to milk are most likely allergic to one or more of the proteins found in milk. When their bodies try to digest these proteins their immune systems respond to the protein by trying to fight it off. Symptoms can range from the abdominal issues that might be felt with lactose intolerance to much more severe reactions like hives, a rash, vomiting, wheezing, and even anaphylactic shock.
Milk allergies are most common in early childhood (2 to 3% of infants) but for most kids the milk allergy goes away by age 3. It’s a pretty rare condition among adults.
The good news is that if you’re over age 3 and having gastrointestinal symptoms, you’re probably dealing with an intolerance and not an allergy. What’s even better is that a lot of people with lactose intolerance are able to drink Hansen’s milk because it’s less processed than most milk and non-homogenized.
You know we have a wallaby in the Hansen’s Farm Fresh Dairy logo. My husband, herd manager Blake Hansen, fell in love with wallabies (miniature kangaroos) after visiting Australia and seeing them in the wild. He acquired three of them from an exotic animal dealer in 2002 and we decided to use them as the logo for our milk. It was something different and meant to attract the attention of kids — whom, of course, we want to consume more dairy products. We just make sure people know the milk comes from the cows, not the wallabies! They’ve been quite the tourist attraction over the years.
This year, Blake decided he wanted to raise some kangaroos, so we bought two female babies from a dealer in Texas. They flew into Cedar Rapids in early December, and now they are living in our house. Pogo is about 8 months old and Tootsie is 6 months. They both weigh less than 10 pounds and are about 18 inches tall.
What’s it like to live with kangaroos? For right now they spend a lot of time in warm little bags that simulate their mother’s pouch. They are fed a kangaroo milk replacer four times a day by bottle and eat some solid pellet food called Happy Hopper. Blake puts diapers on them, cutting a slit for their tail. They love to do laps around the house, and they are fast, jumping effortlessly over any obstacle. As I write, Pogo is jumping over the Monopoly game Blake and some of his nieces are playing!
Recently Blake and his brother Brad took Pogo and Tootsie to Hudson Elementary School. The ‘roos brought a lot of smiles to the students’ faces.
Hopefully the kangaroos made an impression on the kids and they equate that experience with drinking Hansen’s milk.
But these kangaroos aren’t drinking our milk. The irony? Marsupials are lactose-intolerant. I don’t think Blake knew that when he picked them for the faces of Hansen’s Dairy!
Oooh, it’s cold out. We’ve had our first snowstorm of the year! No matter how you feel about the snow and the cold, I’ll bet that a bowl of Hansen’s ice cream sounds pretty good when you’re watching a holiday movie this weekend.
Shout out your favorite Christmas carol (and the reason you love it) in the comments of this post. We will pick one person at random to win 2 free quarts of Hansen’s ice cream – your choice of flavor!! Winners will be selected on Monday morning, December 24.