From Cow to Carton: The path milk takes to your grocery store cooler

By Daphne Holterman

Daphne and her husband Lloyd are 4th-generation Wisconsin dairy farmers who milk about 850 cows and grow alfalfa hay and corn on their farm, Rosy Lane Holsteins. Daphne wants consumers to know they care about producing a safe, healthy, wholesome food supply.

Just how does a gallon of milk get from my dairy farm to your grocery store shelf? It’s not a question many customers would ask. As a dairy farmer, though, it’s one of the most important steps in getting a high quality product from our farm to the grocery store.

On our farm, hauling milk to our dairy plant is orchestrated every week by a former employee, Mike Strobel, of Strobel Trucking. Mike struck out on his own a few years back buying trucks and tankers. Now, he not only hauls our milk, he brings in sand bedding for our cows to lie on and sometimes gravel for the driveways. He also transports materials for nearby farmers. But by far the most detailed (and regulated) trucking he does is to transport milk from farm to the dairy plant.

Attention to Details

There’s a lot to know about hauling milk, and attention to detail is critical. The temperature has to be just right (45 degrees F or less) when it arrives at the dairy plant. If not, the load is rejected and we have to pay to dispose of it. The plant tests the milk before it is ever unloaded to ensure it’s safe and high-quality. Collectively, the dairy community conducts more than four million tests a year on milk.

The 50 minute trip north to the dairy plant – in our case, Saputo Cheese near Waupun, must be a safe one, traversing busy county roads and state highways. Since it’s liquid, milk can shift during transport. With 6,200 gallons on board, this big load must be handled with care. Driving any semi tanker filled with liquid can be quite a challenge!

Mike has a CDL (Commercial Driver License) with training on how to handle this type of load. We deliver a full semi tanker about ten times a week. That adds up to more than 500 loads a year – and that’s just our farm! It takes about 16 hours to fill a semi tanker with milk from our 850 milking cows.  Mike takes a load up to the plant and parks the full tanker in the yard, where it is quickly unloaded by plant staff. In the meantime, he drops off paperwork with details about the milk on board. He then hooks the semi-tractor up to the last tanker he transported to the dairy plant – which has been emptied, washed and sanitized by Saputo employees. The tanker is dated with a tag that expires in 72 hours, so it must be refilled at the farm and returned promptly to ensure the highest-quality milk. In addition, we have a third tanker that is at the farm being filled while Mike is transporting milk. We keep the three tankers in rotation.

The Big Cheese

Our milk is used to make cheddar and other cheeses. We’re fortunate to work with the 12th largest dairy processor in the world, which is also one of the top three cheese producers in the United States. They produce, market and distribute a wide array of delicious products, including cheese, fluid milk, yogurt, dairy ingredients and snack-cakes.

We are very proud of the milk our cows produce. Every day, we take our responsibility to provide wholesome milk very seriously. We work closely with our veterinarian and we train everyone who works on the farm throughout the year to ensure our cows are taken care of all day, every day.

The first step on milk’s journey to the store shelves starts with our expert milk truck driver.  We are proud to have an experienced and knowledgeable person like Mike in charge of our precious cargo. Each tanker is valued at more than $13,000! Across Wisconsin, there are many milk truck drivers like Mike who play a key role in delivering safe, wholesome milk to the dairy plants around the state who process it into delicious dairy products for all of us to enjoy.

Next time you enjoy a cold glass of milk, your favorite kind of cheese, or a big scoop of ice cream, rest assured that care was taken every step of the way: from the cow to the truck; from dairy plant to carton.


Mary Johnson

Well written Daphne!!! You are quite the AGvocate, and this writing helps to dispel the “myths” that are out there about our food supply. You not only produce the product, you and your family CONSUME the product, so you are sure it is safe and held to the highest standards!

Great, educational article!

Ed Billhimer

I found a circa 1920s – 30s pint milk bottle with M. Strobel embossed on it. Was wondering if this was from the same family!


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