Visit a Working Dairy in Ames, Iowa

Last Updated on December 24, 2012 by Jody Halsted

If your children think milk comes from the dairy aisle at your local grocery, it may be time to make a trip to the ISU Dairy in Ames, Iowa. 

The Dairy at Iowa State University

Jersey Cow Sculpture at Iowa State University Dairy
You’ll be greeted by Jersey at the ISU Dairy

The ISU Dairy is located just south of Ames and, while a part of the college, it is not state funded but cash flow supported.    The state of the art facility is much like modern dairies around the Midwest- and nothing like you may remember dairy farms of your youth.

Viewing the Milking Parlor at the Iowa State University Dairy Farm
Viewing windows are comfortable for children and adults

Large windows, low enough that children can easily see in, give full view of the milking parlor.  Employees follow a specific pattern with every set of cows that comes in; cleansing, milking and moisturizing, before the cows amble out, replaced by a new set.  It’s actually quite interesting to see the smooth process and watch the milking machines work.

The walls of the entry are filled with facts :

  • In Iowa the average dairy cow produces 6.5 gallons of milk per day- nearly 19,000 glasses per year!
  • Dairy farming is the 5th largest agricultural business in Iowa creating more than 20,000 local jobs.
  • Dairy farmers (and farmers in general) are more “green” than they are given credit for, practicing good conservation and recycling everything possible- even manure!

On a nearby table you’ll find a pamphlet with more information about the dairy, including a map of the facilities, feeding practices, animal nutrition and possibly more uses for manure than you wanted to know about.

If you’re self tour ends here, you’re likely to know more than most about modern dairies.  But if you really want to learn more, call ahead and schedule a free tour.

Modern Dairy Farm  ISU Dairy  Ames, Iowa
Modern dairy farms monitor the milk as it leaves the cow.

Your tour will take you behind the scenes and show you what goes on at a modern dairy farm. The milk is measured and tested before it is cooled.  It is filtered and tested.  And tested again before it is picked up by Swiss Valley Farms.  Every step of the operation is managed meticulously.

Your guide will show you what the cows eat, how the cows with special diets are fed, and then you get to see the real stars of any dairy… 

Calves at ISU Dairy Farm Ames Iowa
Adorable baby calves

Your guide will tell you that any dairy, no matter the size, has three main goals:

  1. Animal comfort
  2. Protecting the land
  3. Producing high quality product

Any one of these things can not happen without the other.  Our Midwest farmers are proud of what they do, and those of us they feed, should be proud and supportive of them.  So bring your questions- students, professors and dairy specialists are here to answer them.

Tips for Visiting the ISU Dairy

  • The ISU Dairy is open from 5am to 5pm daily.  Be sure to check their website for open houses and special events during the year.
  • Tours are available by appointment only.  Call 515-296-4219 to arrange tours.  Please allow at least a week for arrangements to be made.
  • Walk in visitors are welcome during open hours in the milking parlor lobby.
  • There is no charge to visit the ISU Dairy.

Family Rambling® would like to thank Midwest Dairy for arranging our visit to the ISU Dairy as part of Dairy Month.  While I was not compensated for this post, Midwest Dairy did supply a gas car to cover the cost of fuel for our day trip.

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