Every once in a while you get the opportunity to get out and do something that you haven’t done before. Since starting work at the lab last week, I’ve sat in the building and learned about various lab tests and procedures each day. Today marked my first day to get out and do some field work. The goal for the day was to ride around with a dairy inspector into southwestern Virginia and Tennessee and see how she collects milk for sampling.
The first producer of the day was a man with five milking goats, each of which had a name. He picked each of the goats up one by one onto a small platform with a head restraint. The goats were milked into a bucket and the milk was strained through cheesecloth and put into small glass jars. Each jar was labeled with a date. A sample was taken from the current milking and we were on our way to the next farm.
Another dairy goat farm had all sorts of creatures. Goats, turkeys, pigs, hens, roosters, cats, and big guard dogs. This particular guy was a cheese producer. He milks six goats at a time on a small platform and makes all sorts of different cheeses. After donning a pair of booties and entering his cheese room, the guy showed me the entire cheese-making process. Having never been in a cheese facility before I thought this was quite the process. Another cool thing was the smallest milk receiver jar that I have ever seen.
The later part of the day consisted of two dairy farm visits. The first was different in that the farm doesn’t milk into a bulk tank. Instead, the milk goes directly into milk tankers that have been left by the dairy cooperative. Once they are filled, a trucker comes and picks them up and drops off another. Our second cow farm of the day was even more exciting because we were greeted by two milkers wielding rifles and shotguns, along with 25 or so of their closest barn cat friends.
After a long ride home through the rain I’m happy that I took an opportunity to work with the state. It has been all large animal work so far, so I feel like I’ve learned a lot and will be able to put all of this information to use someday.