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Oklahoma Agriculture in the Classroom


Dairy Cattle

Dairy Cattle
The cow is of the bovine ilk;
One end is moo, the other milk.
by Ogden Nash

The milk most of us drink comes from the udder of a female bovine animal, a cow. The primary purpose for milk is as food for the calf. Although females from all cattle breeds produce milk and meat, some cattle are better at giving milk, and some are better at providing meat. Holstein is the breed that produces the largest quantity of milk.

The dairy farmer's work day begins and ends with milking. Most dairy farmers today use milking machines. One of the most important jobs is keeping everything very clean. That is the only way to make sure bacteria doesn't get into the milk and cause it to spoil. In 1856, Dr. Louis Pasteur discovered that heat kills bad germs. Today we use this process, called pasteurization, to make milk safe to drink.

After the cows are milked, the milk is cooled and stored in a stainless steel tank. The milk stays in the tank until it is time for it to go to the milk processing plant.

When it is time to take the milk to the processing plant, a stainless steel tank truck comes to the farm and pumps the milk from the cooling tank. The truck's tank keeps the milk cool during the trip to the processing plant.

Cows produce twice the amount of milk today as they did during the 1960s. Milk is used to make butter, cheese, ice cream, yogurt and other dairy products. It is also used in the production of nonfood items like glue and other adhesives. One quart of milk weighs 2.15 pounds. It takes about 23 pounds of milk to make one pound of butter. It takes about 12 pounds of milk to make one gallon of ice cream.

Milk was named Oklahoma's official state beverage on November 2, 2002. In 2016, Oklahoma had an average of 37,000 milk cows. Dairy was the 7th most valuable agricultural commodity in Oklahoma in 2015.

Learning Activities

3-D Dairy - Graphing Dairy Production Statistics
Grades 6-8: Math
Students will interpret and graph Oklahoma dairy statistics using a 3-dimensional graph.
Beautiful Bovine
Grades PreK-3: ELA, Life Science
Volunteer is dressed as a cow to demonstrate purposes of the different body parts of a cow and to show how a cow is different from a human.
Beef or Dairy?
Grades K-2: ELA, Science, Math, VA
Students learn to distinguish between beef and dairy cows.
The Chemistry of Butter
Grades 5-7: ELA and Science
Students will read about butter and conduct experiments to observe chemical reactions and changes in properties in milk.
Chew It Twice
Grades 4-5: Science, ELA
The student will trace the path a cow's food follows through its body while listening to teacher-read information. Students will ask and answer questions to clarify comprehension. Students will write opinions based on text. Students will research to learn more about ruminants.
Coats and Genes - Genetic Traits in Cattle (Grades 9-12)
Grades 6-12: Science
The student will read about heredity and explore genetic traits in cattle.
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  • Colorful Cattle
Come Into My Parlor
Grades 3-5: ELA and Math
Students read and answer comprehension questions about milking parlors. Students interpret a map scale to measure the space in a milking parlor. Students will use diagrams of milking parlors to determine the fraction of cows being milked in each one.
The Farmer And The Cowman
Grades K-2: ELA, Social Studies, Music, Visual Art
Students make booklets showing the difference between a ranch and a farm.
Great Expectations
Grade 3: Science
The student will read charts for relevant information to solve mathematical word problems.
Have You The Time Of Day?
Grades K-2: Math, ELA
Students read a story about a day in the life of a dairy farmer and gain practice reading and writing time.
Making the Most of Milk - Understanding Lactose Intolerance
Grades 8-12: Science
Students will learn what causes lactose intolerance and carry out a laboratory activity to test a treatment for lactose intolerance.
Milk by the Gallon, Strawberries by the Quart
Grades 1-3: Math, ELA
Students make a Scarecrow Conversion Chart and get practice converting units of measurement.
Say Cheese!
Grade 5: Science
Students make cheese.
The Story of Milk
Grades PreK-1: ELA
Student learn where milk comes from and place the steps in sequence.
Street Cows
Grades 2-4: ELA, Science
Students will learn that cows come in many different shapes and sizes and will design their own art cows after reading a story about a popular travelling art exhibit.
Taming the Wild Aurochs
Grades 6-High School: ELA, Science, World History
Students will read about and research the domestication of animals, including the wild aurochs, ancestor of modern cattle. Students will create a timeline of the domestication of animals.
They Don't Just Eat Grass
Grades 5-8: Math, Health, Science
Students will read about healthy feeding programs for farm animals. Students determine the best graphing method for information about animal nutrition and plot numbers provided. Students will relate information about balance in animal diets to balance in their own diets and mix their own balanced "rations."

Additional Resources

Woman Milking a Red Cow Woman Milking a Red Cow, 1650s by Karel DuJardin