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If you woke up this morning and had some 2 percent milk on your cereal, a shot of heavy cream in your coffee or maybe a dab of butter on your toast, chances are that that milk, cream and butter came out of the udders of a contented Holstein cow.
Or, if you stopped on the way to work at one of those trendy boutique coffee shops for a fancy café latte, it's likely that latte came out of a Holstein, too.
That's because most of America's dairy herds are made up of healthy, happy Holstein cows.
I can hear you now, “OK, John, so what if I did have one or more of those things this morning, where are we going with this?”
Good question. I mention milk, cream, butter and latte because as you read what follows I want you to feel connected to the fine group that's gathering at various venues here in Maine later this month. I'm talking about the delegates of the 2005 National Holstein Convention.
If you meet a Holstein conventioneer you should welcome them to Maine but there are some things you should remember.
Do not ask how many cattle in their herd. They are dairy men and women and they have cows in their herds.
There were a lot of cows in the herd up the road from where I lived when I was a kid. We'd drive by the Olsen's dairy farm every. Tink Billings, our neighbor who claimed to know about such things, assured us that those cows could predict whether it was going to rain.
“They may not look that bright,” he'd say, “but they're pretty clever about foreseeing where the weather is heading.”
It had something to do with whether the cows stood up or lied down - I can't remember which. Like the weather predictors on TV, Olsen's cows could never quite agree on what the weather would do because every time we drove by some would be standing and some would be lying down.
Tink said that just meant there was a 50 percent chance of precipitation. You might want to ask one of the convening dairy farmers about that to be sure, though.
No matter what else you might say about these convening dairy farmers it's certain that they are a tolerant group. Dairy farmers in general are famous for their tolerance - of lactose. I say this because it's hard for me to imagine anyone in the Holstein group who is lactose intolerant.
If you're planning to attend the Holstein Association's convention here in Maine you better be ready to experience and tolerate a lot of lactose, too.
For those who might not know, lactose is nothing more than a sugar that makes up less than 10 percent of the solids found in cow's milk.
Normally, as the young calves grow, production of lactase - the enzyme that breaks down lactose - stops and they are unable to metabolize the sugar. People who know a lot more about this stuff than I do say this might be an evolutionary mechanism to help wean the little critters.
This loss of lactase also occurs in some humans and when it does they become known as “lactose intolerant.”
The dairy men and women gathering in Maine this week are planning to but away a lot of lactose in the form of milk, cheese, butter, whipped cream, ice cream, yogurt, cheesecake, chowders and even creamy salad dressings.
Sometime during the week they will all convene at Pineland Farms in New Gloucester for a lobster dinner.
But to a dairyman sitting down to a lobster feed is nothing more than an excuse to eat butter.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is mainestoryteller@yahoo.com.
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