This will be the first in a series of stories where I look at where food in Taiwan really comes from. We often buy our food prepackaged, and don’t know where it comes from or how it is made. People take for granted what it takes to provide the food we enjoy. There is an appreciation and connection to the land that comes from experiencing the process of growing, gathering and making food.
WEI-QUAN HIGH-QUALITY MILK
This brand of milk is popular in Taiwan. It can be seen in store shelves everywhere. While driving in Tainan County near the township of Liuying, my family and I happened upon a dairy farm for the Wei-Quan brand. It was Saturday, and they were open and operational, so I grabbed the opportunity to share the exploration with my boys.
When we drove into the compound, there was no one to greet us, and no visitor center. There weren’t many people around. We finally found a person walk out of an office next to the cow pens. It was a veterinarian, who seemed very busy and preoccupied. We asked him if we could look around and take photos, and he said it was fine.
We drove around one of the main pens. It was enormous! Looking around the dairy farm at the several large pens, there must have been about 1,000 cows. They were milling about, eating and enjoying the unexpectedly cool weather in June. There were many black and white spotted dairy cows. They were all female, with large, full udders. There was an area where a few orange-yellow bulls stood in the mud and fed from their feeding troths.
There was a main building where the black and white spotted cows converged. They stood in groups, waiting for their turn to be milked. When it was their turn, groups of cows casually walked into their individual milking stations. Workers wearing masks inside the work area beneath the cows attached the metal suction cups to the cows’ udders. There was a blue liquid placed on the milking attachments. I don’t know what that was, but perhaps it was to help seal the vacuum, or perhaps it was an antiseptic, or both.
My children and I watched group after group of cows stand for about 15 minutes at a time to relieve their swollen udders. I noticed a gutter nearby and noticed a small river of white milk flowing out of the building. I followed the gutter past the corral housing the bulls. I wondered why there were bulls at a dairy farm, but I imagine that you need bulls to keep cows fertile and producing the maximum amount of milk.
My suspicions were reinforced when I noticed that one of the cows still had an umbilical cord hanging from her. We found the veterinarian, and he confirmed that the cow had just given birth that morning. We asked what happened to the calf, and he directed me to a building to the rear of the farm.
In a medium-sized building were cages holding calves. Above the cages were heating lamps used to keep the calves warm. The cages seemed very clean and well sanitized. There was a female worker taking care of the calves. She directed us to the newborn calf, which still had fur wet from birth.
The dairy farm seemed very well-organized, efficient and tidy. We saw the feeding process, and how the manure was collected and processed. It seemed like the dairy farm could sell the manure as fertilizer to local farmers. We enjoyed the experience enough to even switch brands to Wei-Quan the next time we shopped for milk for our children. Knowing where the food comes from makes a big difference in the confidence one has as a consumer. The Wei-Quan Dairy Farm, and its cows, won us over.