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Skaggs: Get milk in June and cut health care costs
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Got Milk? If not, you should. Almost nine out of 10 women and seven out of 10 men don’t get enough calcium. And your best source of calcium is milk.

June marks a monthlong salute to our nation’s dairy farmers. It began in 1937, and it has grown into an annual tradition. It honors the hard work of our nation’s dairy farmers, and it highlights the importance of dairy foods in our diets.

This year’s theme is "Vote Dairy." The theme highlights dairy foods as top vote-getters for your healthy diet.

Milk and milk products are great nutrient packages of nine essential vitamins and minerals, including calcium, potassium, riboflavin, phosphorus, vitamins A, D and B-12, and protein. Dairy products are what dietitians call nutrient-dense foods, containing an abundance of vitamins and minerals per calorie.

In 2005, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee suggested that Americans increase their consumption of milk, yogurt and cheese from two to three servings a day to three servings a day. The federal government develops and releases the guidelines every five years based on expert testimony and exhaustive scientific research.

The research showed how critical it is to consume dairy and live a healthy lifestyle.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Hypertension suggests that eating three to four servings of dairy every day could lead to health care savings of more than $214 billion over five years through reduced risks of high blood pressure, osteoporosis and some forms of cancer.

Today, many people not only want to know that the food products they consume are healthy for them, but that they have been produced in such a way that is healthy for the environment. Dairy farmers share this interest as well.

Dairy farmers employ a wide range of environmentally sound practices, including manure management, water recycling systems, conservation tillage and grass waterways, and routine water testing.

These stewardship practices are enhanced by working with experts at state and federal departments of natural resources, Cooperative Extension Service and land-grant universities.

Of all our natural resources, water is certainly the most precious. Milk is 80 percent water. It’s no wonder water is considered the most important resource on a dairy farm. Clean, fresh drinking water for the cows is essential for wholesome, quality milk.

In addition to a dairy farmer’s personal commitment, farms must abide by clean water laws. Water is routinely checked as part of the state dairy inspection program.

Dairy farmers use water responsibly and judiciously. For example, water used to clean the milking parlor is often reused to clean feed alleys and then to irrigate fields. Potentially, water could be recycled two to three times on a dairy farm.

So the next time you are enjoying a cold glass of milk or perhaps a bowl of delicious ice cream, remember that someone worked hard to bring it to you — America’s dairy farmers.

Billy Skaggs is Hall County extension agent. He can be reached at 770- 531-6988. His column appears biweekly and at gainesvilletimes.com.

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