Got Milk? The bovine stars of the Royal Winter Fair

by Nadia Persaud

Nov. 14, 2009

Listen to the interview with Marnie Johnson, Ontario Milk educator, here.

The performers in Thursday’s show are waiting for it to start.

The six of them are already standing side by side, their backs to the audience, and their rear ends exposed in the air. The audience has filled up all the seats and those who arrived later crowd alongside the waist-high fence. There are “Oohs,” “Ahhs,” and pointing coming from both the adults and children. The performers seem unbothered by this and one responds to the audience with a soft “Moo.”

These are the six dairy cows featured at the 87th Royal Winter Fair, and the audience is waiting to see the last milking demonstration for the day.

“People are just so interested to see the udders and their size,” said Marnie Johnson, 25, an Ontario dairy educator, about the typically large crowd that they receive three times a day.
The demonstration is over in less than 15 minutes and the audience that continued to grow during Johnson’s milking commentary quickly disperses.

This doesn’t bother Brad Kuipers, 20, a dairy farmer from Prince Edward County, who sits on a stool at the corner of the stage. A self-proclaimed babysitter to the six cows donated by various farmers, Kuipers must clean up, feed, milk, and keep his charges from behaving badly.

“The first year I worked we didn’t have this fence and people would always come up to the cows,” said Kuipers as a mother and two small children try to get a closer look at the cows. In a flash the babysitter extraordinaire is off his stool and explaining why the area is off limits except to staff. They apologize for the misunderstanding and leave.

“These cows have been around me for a while now so they won’t react but around 20 little kids they can get uncomfortable and start stepping everywhere and then they could break toes, and hurt the kids,” continued Kuipers after the interruption.

The cows seems unfazed by this event and continue to eat the hay in front of them while other people sit, blissfully unaware of the possibly dangerous situation Kuipers prevented.

This is Kuipers and Johnson’s second year working at the fair. Johnson previously made information catalogues to sell cows. Both come from dairy farming backgrounds, Kuipers through his family operated dairy farm in Prince Edward County, and Johnson on the dairy farm she shares with her husband in Durham County.

There are approximately 400,000 dairy cows in Ontario, according to the Dairy Farmers of Ontario website. Each of the cows on the stage represents one of six commonly used breeds in the dairy industry. The common Holstein cow produces the highest quantity of milk but Johnson points out, also the least amount of butter fat, and that is what the dairy farmers get their
money from. Meanwhile the second most common cow, the Jersey produces the most butter fat but also the lowest quantity of milk. The butter fat is a main ingredient found in cheeses, ice cream, butter and other dairy products.

“In Ontario, the Holstein cow makes up 94% [of the total dairy cows], the Jersey is four per cent,” said Johnson. “The other four breeds make up less than two percent, because you do have the occasional other cow.”

Milking a cow, on the farm and in the show is a quick and easy process, Johnson explained during the presentation. First the cow’s teats are cleaned with a disinfectant and then a mechanical milking machine is attached drawing the milk into a collective bulk tank, which is picked up by the dairy company. It can take less than 15 minutes to milk a cow.

The milking is the easiest part, because dairy cow require more supervision than their counterparts, beef cows.

“Beef farmers can leave their cows outside but we see our cows everyday. We have to really monitor their feet conditions, their health, and their milk levels,” Kuipers said. “You have to be there every single day, it’s hard.”

The dairy cows on the other side of the fence have also stayed there every day since the fair began Nov. 6. In that time these large animals have attracted large audiences whether through the demonstrations or in their off time where they continue to eat, defecate, sleep, and relax; unaware of their own popularity.
“They are sweet and they like to nuzzle, they kiss sometimes, they are really affectionate,” gushed Johnson about the dairy cow’s appeal. “There are other animals in the agricultural community that don’t give as much as cows in my own personal opinion.”
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Cows Royal Winter Fair
Nadia Persaud
1-1-1
November 19, 2009.
The show is about to start. The audience, made up of children and adults, has long since filled up the bleacher seats. Those unable to get seats stand alongside the waist-high fence separating the stage from the audience. The stars are already on the stage, in fact they have not left since Nov. 6, their first show. They are dairy cows and the audience is waiting to see them be milked.
“They identify with the cow’s milk and it’s neat to see the process for them, and of course it’s nutritious. It’s a major growing industry and people are just so interested to see the udders and their size. It’s amazing to see the draw they create,” said Marnie Johnson, 25, Ontario Dairy Educator, about the normally large crowd gathered to watch the day’s last milking demonstration.
The show is over in less than fifteen minutes and the audience that continued to grow during Johnson’s milking commentary quickly disperses. The show is popular among many of the visitors attending the 87th annual Royal Winter Fair, with three daily demonstrations each day for nine days.
This doesn’t bother Brad Kuipers, 20, a dairy farmer from Prince Edward County, sitting patiently at the corner of the stage. A self-proclaimed baby-sitter to the six donated
cows Kuipers must clean up, feed, milk, and keep his charges from behaving badly.
more more more
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“The first year I worked we didn’t have this fence and people would always come up to the cows. These cows have been around me for a while now so they won’t react but around 20 little kids they can get uncomfortable and start stepping everywhere and then they could break toes, and hurt the kids,” he said.
This is Kuipers and Johnson’s second year working at the fair. Johnson previously made information catalogues to sell cows. Both come from dairy farming backgrounds, Kuipers through his family operated dairy farm in Prince Edward County, and Johnson on the dairy farm she shares with her husband in Durham County.
There are approximately 400,000 dairy cows in Ontario, according to the Dairy Farmers of Ontario website. Each of the cows on the stage represents one of six commonly used breeds in the dairy industry. The common Holstein cow produces the highest quantity of milk but Johnson points out, also the least amount of butter fat, and that is what the dairy farmers get their money from. Meanwhile the second most common cow, the Jersey produces the most butter fat but also the lowest quantity of milk. The butter fat is a main ingredient found in cheeses, ice cream, butter and other dairy products.
Milking a cow, on the farm and in the demonstration is a quick and easy process. First the cow’s teats are cleaned with a disinfectant and then a mechanical milking machine is attached drawing the milk into a collective bulk tank, which is picked up by the dairy company. It can take less than 15 minutes to milk a cow.
more more more

3-3-3-3
Unlike beef cows, dairy cows require more supervision.
“Beef farmers can leave their cows outside but we see our cows everyday. We have to really monitor their feet conditions, their health, and their milk levels,” Kuipers said. “You have to be there every single day, it’s hard.”
While the audience may not be aware of the hard work that goes into producing
milk they are no doubt enamoured with the large animals each lined up, with their backs
facing the audience. In other cases this may not be appropriate behaviour but the audience enjoys it and besides, “they are sweet and they like to nuzzle. They kiss sometimes, they are really affectionate, and hard working animals and there are other animals in the agricultural community that don’t give as much as cows in my own personal opinion,” Johnson gushed.

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