In 1937, some grocer organizations decided to sponsor National Milk Month to create a way to hand out extra milk when dairy production was at a surplus, (during the summer months of the year.) In 1939, the National Dairy Council decided to take over this promotion and renamed it to “Dairy Month.” The American Dairy Association took over promoting June is Dairy month in 1955. This promotion is now an annual celebration to show appreciation to dairy farmers and to educate the general public about dairy.
How can the public celebrate dairy with recognizing the amazing animal that makes it all happen? The modern dairy cow originated from a wild bovine known as aurochs, which are now extinct. These aurochs were domesticated by humans about 10,000 years ago, and people have been drinking their milk ever since.
In 1611, the first cow was brought to America, arriving at the Jamestown colony. Up until the 1850s, almost every family in the “New World” owned their own milk cow.
In North Carolina, there are about 46,000 milk cows alone. Each dairy cow in N.C. produces an average of 2,439 gallons of milk a year, that’s an average of eight gallons of milk per day. And don’t forget about the dairy goats of N.C. — those animals produce milk that makes cheese.
Dairy serves as a huge role in people’s diets starting at a very young age. Dairy foods contain multiple important nutrients the body needs; a few of which include: calcium, protein, vitamin A, B12, & D, and potassium. As reported by the USDA, low-fat or fat-free dairy products are the best choice, because whole-milk dairy products adds extra calories and fat to one’s diet.
Contrary to popular belief, flavored low-fat or fat-free milks, such as chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, enrich people’s diets just as plain milk. It is recommended that children ages 2 to 3 years old should have two cups of dairy a day, children ages 4 to 8 should consume two and a half cups per day, and people ages 9 and older should have three cups of dairy a day. Consuming three servings of dairy products a day will build strong bones in developing children, help prevent calcium deficiency, may help maintain healthy blood pressure, and may reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Consumption of dairy foods also is linked to the reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes in adults.
North Carolina may not be one of the top dairy producing states in the U.S., but its dairies are helping provide dairy products to people around the world. There are 195 active dairies in North Carolina with an average heard size of 219 milking cows. The dairy industry brought in $158.8 million in cash receipts in 2016.
There are many activities people can do during the month of June to support and learn about the dairy industry. A few activities are to visit a local farmers market; buy locally-made milk, cheese, and ice cream; make recipes using dairy foods; go out for ice cream or make it at home; last, but not least, go and visit a local dairy farm, only if they are putting on an event.
A place that would be great to visit, if there are no dairies around, are local creameries. Here are a few creameries to visit — Homeland Creamery in Julian, Buffalo Creek Farm and Creamery in Germanton, Goat Lady Dairy in Climax, Chapel Hill Creamery in Chapel Hill, and Simply Natural Creamery in Hookerton. Wholesome Country Creamery on Windsor Road, Hamptonville, provides locally produced dairy products, and the store is open to the public.