Florida on a Tankful: Feed baby cows at Dakin Dairy

By Scott Fais, Feature Reporter
Last Updated: Saturday, April 01, 2017, 10:01 AM EDT

Have you ever wondered where your milk comes from?

"They know milk comes from cows, but they see it in the stores and that's where get it,” said Natalie Briggs at Dakin Dairy in south Manatee County.

Natalie stands at the front of a wagon full of hay and wide-eyed children. The rare Spring hayride is part of a wider tour at Dakin Dairy in Myakka City.

"Remain seated at all times,” Natalie instructs as roughly 30 people at a time go behind-the-scenes to look at the 4,400 cows at Dakin Dairy.

"A lot of kids come out here and they never have been on a farm before,” Natalie said.

Once they disembark the 20-minute ride pulled by a tractor, visitors will see the milking process from an elevated loft.

"They get to see the milking parlor, and how we milk them,” Natalie said of the process.

Many of the cows will give milk three times a day. When resting, they are provided with grass raised and cut fresh on the farm.

The next stop on the tour allows folks to make their own butter.

"Shake, shake, shake," Natalie instructs youngsters as they shake a glass jar separating what will become butter and what will be left behind as whey.

After making their own butter, visitors get to enjoy a little bit of a taste test. Some folks thought the butter they made was freshest butter they’ll ever taste.

Next, little cow pokes get a chance to feed the baby cows by bottle. Since these little boys are aggressive, visitors are kept behind a fence.
Kids can bottle feed the snorting babies through tubes in the fence, guaranteeing a safe distance.

In the spring, there's baby animals to observe, like baby goats. On the day we visited, the goats were 48 hours old and already running behind mom.

Inside, visitors navigate a series of overhead windows, where they can peek inside the area where cheese is made.

"We have a cheddar cheese here that we just milled,” explained Allen Bassler, the master Cheese maker.

Allen first started stirring cheese 30 years ago in Virginia. Today, his forearms are the same size of the blocks of cheese you would find behind a deli counter. Those blocks of cheese are now aging upstairs in a special room.

"Once people get the taste of it, they say, 'Oh. We can get this here and not Wisconsin,’" Allen says about the variety of cheeses he makes.

The final stop at Dakin Dairy is a look at where milk gets bottled before heading to your grocery store. Empty plastic bottle whiz down assembly lines. Machinery fills the bottles, while humans load them into boxes and crates.

Those wanting a sample can purchase milk and cheese from coolers in the gift shop.

Know before you go:
Tickets are $10 per person. The farm is open to tours on select days only. Find open days using this calendar. Tours will wrap up at the end of April 2017, before beginning again in the fall.

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