Students from the Memphis Head Start experience bottle feeding a calf as part of the field trip to the Burkholder Dairy and Country View Store on Highway 15 south of Memphis.

Ask a child where his glass of milk came from and the likely answer will be the refrigerator. A little more in depth response possibly could be the grocery store.

Last week the students of the Memphis Head Start program took that question one step further as part of a tour of the Burkholder Dairy on Highway 15 south of Memphis. The classmates also were treated to a full tour of the Country View Store green house where they learned how plants grow before capping off the day with a free ice cream cone courtesy of the store.

While the educational adventure was well received by the children, and an ice cream cone is hard to top, most of the children said the best part of the day was the dairy barn.

The kids received some hands on experience with the dairy industry, complete with a chance to bottle feed a calf.

They were awed by the fact that these cows could produce between 12-15 gallons of milk a day, each day. According to the USDA, dairy cows produced on average more than 23,000 pounds of milk a year, capping off a 13% increase in the past 10 years.

The Holstein Foundation explains that the lactation cycle for dairy cows can be broken into three periods. Approximately three to six weeks after calving, the dairy cow hits peek milk production, which lasts approximately 100 days.

The next 100 day period involves dairy farmers trying to maintain peak production through what is called mid-lactation. During this time, cows can eat around 4% of their body weight, before production begins to fall off in the final 100 days of the late lactation period.

Typically cows then experience a dry period off between 45 to 60 days.

The student guests also were impressed by the fact that dairy calves weigh around 80 pound when born. By their first birthday, the cows average between 700 to 900 pounds before filling out to between 1,200 to 1,600 pounds by year two, well above the combined weight of the 19 three- and four-year-old students on the tour.

In the greenhouse, the students learned about plants. They saw seeds being planted and learned that a seed consists of three parts, the embryo that grows into the plant, food storage for the growth cycle and the seed coat which protects the embryo from injury or drying out.

The kids were also taught that seeds require moisture, oxygen and then the right temperatures to eventually germinate and grow. That process involves the embryo expanding through the seed cover before breaking through the soil.