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Oklahoma Agriculture in the Classroom

Agricultural Facts


  • Early cattle served a triple purpose for the humans who raised them. They provided meat, milk, and labor. Cattle are no longer used as beasts of burden, but they still provide us with meat and dairy products.
  • Pioneers took advantage of the rough trails to churn milk into butter.
  • Milk comes from a cow's udder. It is produced after the cow gives birth to her first calf - primarily as food for the calf.
  • We get meat from beef cows and milk products from dairy cows. Although females from all cattle breeds produce milk and meat, some cattle are better at giving milk, and some are better at providing meat.
  • Milk was named Oklahoma's official state beverage on November 2, 2002.
  • Oklahoma has 440 dairy farms, with a total of 82,000 dairy cows.
  • Oklahoma dairy cows produce 1.3 billion pounds of milk annually. The average Oklahoma herd produces nearly 3 million pounds of milk per year.
  • One quart of milk weighs 2.15 pounds.
  • On the dairy farm, the farmer's work day begins and ends with milking.
  • One of the dairy operator's 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.
  • The invention of the milking machine made it possible for the dairy operator to milk quickly and to keep everything cleaner than ever before. Not only was this more sanitary, it also cut down on the dairy operator's work.
  • The first ice cream parlor in America opened in New York City in 1777. Before the invention of the milking machine, cows were milked by hand in the same stalls where they ate and slept. By the early 1930s dairymen began to set up special rooms just for milking.
  • Today's dairy farms use 10 percent of the land, 23 percent of the feed and 35 percent of the water that was required to produce the same amount of milk in 1944. (Animal Agriculture Alliance)
  • Some common dairy cattle have markings that make them easy to recognize. Holstein cattle are probably the easiest to recognize because they are white with black spots. But dairy cattle, like beef cattle, come in many different colors.
  • Because they must be milked twice daily, dairy cattle usually stay close to the dairy barn.
  • The first commercial ice cream plant was established in 1851 by Jacob Fussell.
  • Immigrants arriving at Ellis Island were served vanilla ice cream as part of their "Welcome to America" meal.
  • The ice cream cone made its debut at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis.
  • A milk stool has only three legs because the USDA declared three legs are more sanitary because there is less surface to clean.
  • 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.
  • The average dairy cow consumes 300 pounds of water each day.
  • According to legend cheese was discovered several thousand years ago by an Arabian traveler who placed milk into a pouch made of a sheep's stomach. During the day's journey, the combined action of the sun's heat and the enzymes in the lining of the stomach changed the milk into a snowy white curd of cheese and the thin liquid called whey.
  • Some cheeses are made by taking an enzyme from the stomach of a calf and adding it to milk. The enzyme is called rennin and causes a semisolid mass (curd) to form and separate from the liquid (whey). The whey left over from the cheesemaking process is used in animal feed or to make ice cream.
  • Different strains of microbes are used to produce different kinds of cheese.
  • Factories produce cheese in 500-pound blocks.
  • When it is first made, cheese has little flavor. It takes three months to make mild cheese and at least a year to make sharp cheese. Manufacturers keep the cheese in the refrigerator until it is ready. Then they cut off the mold that grows on the surface.
  • All cheese is naturally white. Yellow cheeses are yellow because color is added to them.
  • Milk and honey are the only substances never intended for any use other than food. They cannot be planted, grafted or cultivated to reproduce themselves.
  • In 1856, Dr. Louis Pasteur discovered that heat killed bad germs. Today we use this process, called pasteurization, to make milk safe to drink.
  • Cows produce twice the amount of milk today than they did during the 1960s.
  • Each day a cow spends six hours eating and eight hours chewing its cud.
  • The fattest cow is the Durham Ox of the 1800s.
  • The cow that produces the most milk is the Holstein.
  • A protein in milk called casein is used to make white school glue.

Dairy and the Oklahoma Economy

Oklahoma's dairy farmers provide more than milk. They bring jobs and economic activity to communities across the state. Oklahoma dairies contribute to the local economy by supporting local businesses and the community tax base. Dairy farming is an important contributor to the state's overall economy. Each dollar a dairy producer receives in milk sales generates more money for the local economy.

  • Approximately 300 dairy farms provide milk, cheese, yogurt and other dairy products to residents of Oklahoma, the U.S., and dairy consumers around the world
  • Approximately 98 percent of all Oklahoma dairy farms are family-owned.
  • In Oklahoma, the average dairy cow will produce 6.8 gallons of milk per day over the course of a typical year. That's more than 2,476 gallons a year.
  • Oklahoma dairy farms produce 143.7 million gallons of milk annually.
  • Dairy is the 5th largest agricultural business in Oklahoma, generating $177 million a year.
  • A strong dairy industry benefits the agricultural economy and the economic well being of rural Oklahoma.
  • Milk doesn't stay on the farm — where milk goes, more jobs are created.
  • Dairy farmers purchase machinery, trucks, fuel, and more from local companies, generating jobs and income.
  • Dairies create jobs for people who grow and ship feed for cows, as well as for veterinarians, insurance agents, accountants, bankers, and others.
  • After milk leaves the farm, it travels by truck to a dairy plant, where people process cheese, fluid milk, ice cream, butter, yogurt, and other dairy products.
  • Truckers, packaging manufacturers and food marketers complete the cycle by transporting and marketing the dairy products everyone loves. This means jobs in the transportation, distribution and retail industries.