Photo: Leann Krainick, Linda Mendoza and Kathryn Brelje at Krainick Dairy
We are so pleased to welcome Kathryn Brelje, RDN to our Washington Dairy Council Team. In the past 2 months, Kathryn has learned all about her new home in Washington, meeting with many of you, attending conferences across our great state and getting an insiders tour on one of our most favorite topics—where milk comes from. Here Kathryn shares her first experience meeting a dairy cow…
From surf and sand to mountains and the Puget Sound, what an adventure it has been since making the big move from Southern California to Seattle. Spending the past 10 years of my career in Southern California has been wonderful— I found a passion for engaging local communities with nutrition messaging, and learning how to craft and share tips and have a true benefit to families. I have been lucky to grow as a nutrition counselor, trainer and mentor; but I was always searching for new nutrition experiences, and ways to expand my “view” from one greater than that provided by my office training room.
When the offer to explore the sights and sounds in the Pacific Northwest became available, I jumped at the opportunity – that opportunity landed me here, at the Washington State Dairy Council (WSDC). Week two on the job at the WSDC, I was more than ready to dive head first into my very first visit to a dairy farm, and I was not disappointed. Here’s a quick summary of the things I learned:
1. Holy Cow - the Scenery!
I traveled with my new coworkers to Krainick Farm, about 40 miles outside of Seattle. I was told before I moved to Seattle that the scenery changes every 30 minutes, and they were correct. We drove from brilliant skyscrapers, through picturesque suburban neighborhoods, through open farming spaces to the valley at the base of Mt. Rainier, where the backdrop to the dairy was breathtaking. I have learned that Washington’s temperate conditions makes it the perfect place to raise and milk dairy cows. It also makes for a beautiful place to tour and visit.
2. Cows Are Milked in “Parlors”
I had not had the privilege of being exposed to farming, growing up in a suburb of Silicon Valley, so I was grateful for a tour where I was able to observe all things dairy. After being greeted by Leann Krainick, co-owner of Krainick Dairy, she started the tour by explaining the dairying process, it was clear she was passionate and very knowledgeable. The tour began in the “milking parlor,” a clean room full of cow stalls with a lowered deck where the milking crew could safely access the cow’s udders to clean and then attach milking equipment. It was interesting to see the ergonomics of the space and how well organized it was for both the crew and the cows! The Krainick’s had thought of everything for the safety of their cows and staff.
3. Dairy Cows Have Their Own Nutritionist
The final stop on the tour was a nutritionist’s fascination, the feed storage. All the cows had a nutrition plan, but what do they eat? There were “marshmallows” or silage grass rolls, grain chaff, spent grain from a local brewery, and remnants from a pie factory. Leann explained that a veterinary nutritionist calculates the appropriate mixture in order to ensure that her dairy cows are receiving the nutrition they need based on where they are in their lifecycle. For example, a cow that is pregnant will get a different ration with different nutrients than a cow who is not. We were able to see a meal being served to the girls and I even got to pet one of the cow’s nose as she ate her lunch! The best part, they ate everything they were offered; I was so impressed.
The trip to the dairy farm barely whet my appetite for learning about the amazing dairy farmers in Washington. As a Registered Dietitian, I have always been a strong supporter of milk and milk products as an important part of a healthy eating pattern yet in my studies and career, I had not been exposed to the care taken to provide a quality product.
It was a delightful adventure to meet Leann and her crew, to hear about the practices used to take care of the cows, and to actually experience firsthand where milk comes from. As I continue my journey with the WSDC, I am excited to continue to educate on the importance of consuming a healthy, balanced diet that includes dairy but also to make sure everyone knows the story behind where their favorite dairy foods come from. I can’t wait to see where my time in the dairy community takes me and to meet my next dairy farmer!