Kids introduced to agriculture at MoDak Dairy open house in Kranzburg

Dominik Dausch
Farm Forum
A teen pets a young calf at MoDak Dairy's open house Saturday. Kids saw firsthand how a dairy farm is managed, including the day-to-day care and automated milking of cows.

KRANZBURG — The simple act of opening the barn doors to a dairy parlor might be the invitation a child needs for a future in agriculture.

The Moes family, which runs MoDak Dairy, a large farm about a mile north of Kranzburg in Codington County, enticed more than few kids and their parents to tour their milking operation on Saturday. About 600 people stopped by the farm throughout the day, according to Greg Moes, co-owner of the dairy, as part of an open house to celebrate National Dairy Month.

Staff led guided wagon tours of the facility, which let visitors see how a large-scale dairy farm collects milk straight from the source. A drive through one of their 1,000-head cow pens showed where the animals are kept prior to milking, including the 10 to 12 calves that are born daily.

Groups then stepped into MoDak's dairy parlor where workers went through the motions of modern milking: attaching a robotic suction arm to a cow's udders — which simultaneously squeezes milk and gathers data from the bovine's yield — then monitoring the animal for a two-minute period and ending the first of three daily milkings with a post-dip moisturizer to keep their udders from chafing.

A group boards a tractor-pulled wagon before setting off on a tour of the MoDak Dairy Saturday. The Kranzburg-based milk house was formed in 1991, but the Moes family has been milking cows in South Dakota for five generations after originally immigrating from Germany in the late 19th century.

No dairy parlor tour is complete, Moes said, without snacks. Attendees were provided grilled cheese sandwiches and malts made with milk from MoDak cows.

MoDak Dairy details

Area farmers who are keen on the finer points of agriculture appreciated explanations of the environmentally sustainable practices at MoDak Dairy, such as how the thousands of cows are fed ground-up corn grown at the farm and kept warm during the winter using heat captured from their manure.

Greg Moes, fourth from the left, leads a tour group into the MoDak Dairy parlor Saturday. Sixty cows can be milked simultaneously in the facility, and Moes said his farm collects about 23,000 gallons of unpasteurized milk per day.

For many kids, Moes said, the experience is eye-opening:

"They're going to go back home and say, 'We toured a dairy farm … look how much goes into milking cows!'" he said.

"It's not the three-legged stool anymore," Moes added, alluding to the technological advances that have partially automated the dairy industry.

12-hour shifts mean plenty of work

The tours also offered a glimpse into the somewhat tough reality of the job, which has workers perform laborious tasks, including cleaning the cows' hooves and cycling herds between the parlor and the pens. Employees often work 12-hour shifts for six days out of the week, according to Moes, and milk more than 2,000 cows each day.

Greg Moes (left) explains to a family how unpasteurized milk squeezed from cows a floor above them is transported through a complex pipe system into 7,000-gallon tanks outside his dairy parlor. Some of the raw milk is diverted into measuring devices in order to collect data on the yield and health of the cows.

The Kranzburg man hopes exposing today's naturally tech-fluent kids to behind-the-scenes life at a dairy farm, which isn't always pretty, will spark the innovation that drives modern ag and the animal science that is fundamental to the industry.

"Agriculture sometimes gets a bad rap," Moes said. "Maybe this will tide more kids over."

For more information on other open houses happening in South Dakota, visit Ag United's Events page.