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Dairy Delight Kids Mooved By Working Farm Tour
Children, teachers and chaperones from Snells School (Pre-K) in Stockton look at the milking operation on the Bartelink Dairy on Van Allen Road during a school tour. - photo by Marg Jackson/The Times

Getting the chance to breathe in the ‘fresh’ country air, see an hours-old calf, watch a milking operation and tour a working dairy farm, kids from Snell’s School in Stockton recently made a visit to the John Bartelink Dairy on Van Allen Road.

It was the final tour in a recent spring series and Bartelink has hosted the dairy tours for years, bringing in students from Escalon, Stockton and beyond to get a glimpse of a working dairy farm in operation, so the youngsters can see where their milk comes from.

A 15-year board member of the California Milk Advisory Board, Bartelink said dairymen must be their own best advocates and he said hosting the tours is one way to get their message out there. The milk his dairy cows produce goes to Hilmar Cheese, where it is used in the production of the many varieties of cheese manufactured there.

“We had 70 kids this morning,” Bartelink said as he got ready to welcome the afternoon tour to the Van Allen Road property. “I love it because this way, it’s an early age to start to know where the milk comes from.”

The Pre-K students from Snell’s School arrived with great anticipation, which quickly turned to wrinkled noses and plenty of ‘eewws’ as they entered the first phase of the tour, seeing multiple cows in stalls hooked up to the milking machines.

“Two times a day we are milking,” Bartelink shared.

The milk taken from the cows, warm to the touch through the tubing, is piped into holding tanks where it is cooled and some filtering is also done.

“People think we milk the cow, then go to the bank,” Bartelink told the group. “There’s a lot more in between.”

Cows are also divided up, based on their production levels, with different feeds and amounts given based on that production.

He also pointed out that there are a variety of grains that go into the feed and hay is also used, with strict requirements for storing of feed to keep the cows healthy and producing good milk.

The dairy tour was broken up into two groups, with each getting to see the entire operation. The tour included the actual milk barn where the cows are milked, the feed lot area where those not being milked were content to eat, holding areas where newborn calves could be found trying to stand up, with encouraging moos from their mothers; and the area where feed is mixed.

“I love to do what I do,” Bartelink explained of hosting the tours, which wraps up with a special sitdown snack at the end, featuring cheese and ice cream, both made with milk as their base.

Assisting Bartelink with the recent tour were Ann Mesman of Cargill, who offered information on the feeding process, and Patti Faria, who talked about the calves and how the cows are accounted for, keeping the milk cows separate from the meat cows.

Bartelink told the youngsters that the morning milking produced 6,300 pounds of milk, all of which went to Hilmar Cheese.

“We also take samples, we want clean milk,” he said. “My cows get washed twice a day, quality is really, really important.”