Kim Youman demonstrated how milk comes from a cow by reaching under Stickers, a 1,002-pound Holstein dairy cow, grasping a teat on the udder, and tugging it to squirt a milky stream onto the ground in front of assembled Walter White School students.
The reaction - cries of "ewe-e-e-e" and "ooh" - was priceless and part of a memorable education on dairy cows offered by the Dairy Council of California on Thursday morning.
"Did you guys just scream at milk?" replied Youman, appearing to be stunned. "Excuse me, it's just milk, I think you can handle it! Let's try it again."
Youman, a Fresno State University graduate, stood in front of the Mobile Dairy Classroom trailer where Snickers continued to eating hay, unaffected by hundreds of watching students. Kim explained that the five-year-old cow can only give milk because she has calved before. She explained that milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, cream cheese, sour cream, whipped cream, ice cream and cottage cheese all are made of products from a cow.
Students were shown a milking claw, which allows a cow to be milked by machine rather than by hand in the olden days. The warm is cooled down and removed to be processed.
"Her tail is one of my favorite parts because it has a very fun job," Youman explained. "She's a cow. She obviously doesn't have arms and hands like we do. That tail acts as a built-in flyswatter. If we get a fly on us we get to use our hand. All she has to do is swish around her tail and she gets to scare off bugs and flies."
She explained other parts, like 13 ribs on each side, and the process that cows use to process food through a single stomach that has four pockets. Snickers likes to eat alfalfa grass, which is sweet, as well as corn, cotton seeds, almond shells and banana peels. Youman said a cow uses its tongue much like a hand to grab food.
It was explained that a cow takes all the food to the back of the mouth where it is crushed by molars as the jaw goes side to side. The food goes into a large stomach. "Each pocket helps her digest her food," she said. The first two pockets are connected where food is broken down. The food is sent back to the mouth where the cow chews its cud. That load moves through all four pockets before going to the stomach.
"You guys want to know something fun about her tongue? Sometimes, if she needs to, she can stick out her tongue and then she can also stick it up her nose and she can pick her nose with her tongue too." That sent the kids into a collective "ew-w-w-w-e!"
The ear tag, she explained, helps track Snickers from a farm of 700 other cows in Galt.
"When I go look for Snickers in the morning I cannot grab any cow I want to. I need to make sure that I find Snickers so I go through and sort through about 100 different cows just to find her."
Casady Williams, a spokesperson for the Dairy Council of California, said that the mobile classroom is important "as children become more removed from the path our food and beverages take from the farm to the table."
The Dairy Council of California was established in 1919, and provides nutrition education and promotes the benefits and uses of milk and milk products, with a focus on fostering a well-balanced diet among all the food groups. Youman said the council was the first farm to classroom program in the United States. Six different units serve around 60,000 to 100,000 students across California each year. "We do a school per day."