1,200 Cows and Counting: Beyond the Fried Food at the Arizona State Fair

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If you think Kelvin (Kelly) and Kathy Moss have a lot of kids (Anneke 19, Shelby 15, Sheridan 13, Regan 10, Katie 7, Jackson, 5 and Jensen, 7 months) wait til you hear how many cows they have. Their Mountain Shadow Dairy in Litchfield Park is home to 1200 Jersey cows. This family is definitely on the mooooove. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

See also: - Eating the Arizona State Fair - Opening Day at the Arizona State Fair (slideshow)

This week is a big week for the Moss family. They will be showing their cows, including "Cookie Dough" and "Creamery" at the Arizona State Fair through November 4.

"The kids spend a lot of time just loving on the animals first before any training starts and both the loving and the training take a lot of time," Kathy explains. She says she feels the kids learn a lot, as she and Kelly didn't grow up showing cows, so the kids have really made their own way. Sheridan is nervous and excited to move up from "beginner" class to the "intermediate" class this year.

Did you know that more than 9,000 kids are part of 4-H community clubs in Arizona? Feeling lazy yet? Kids can start showing for 4-H at age 9, but in the open show there is not an age restriction, Kathy says. "So Katie and Jackson both started at about 5 years old." Not that Kathy, a former "city girl," gets off easy either. Between raising seven kids, the farm and homeschooling the family is busy. She says that she and Kelly are always only a phone call away from the business. When asked about her biggest adjustment to life on the farm with Kelly and the kids she says, "The biggest shock to me was the inability to ever fully take a day off. It is well worth the constraints and the best place in the world to raise children, but, sometimes it gets a little difficult to never be able to get completely away."

Kelly's dad started the dairy in 1965 and Kelly grew up on the farm and went into business with his dad with a partnership in 1993. The Moss family sells their milk through the United Dairymen of Arizona to places like Schreiber Foods, Inc who make cheese in Tempe. Kelly says the Jersey cows' milk makes great cheese due to its higher milk fat and protein content than other types of cows milk.

At the fair, people not only make comments about the creation of cow patties, they sometimes mistake the cows for camels. (This is how you know as a society we're really disconnected from our food.) Mostly, though, it seems folks are often confused by the stature of the cows, says Kelly. Jersey cows are the "figure skaters" of the cow world unlike the "body builder" meat cows.

As a result, many fair-goers thinking the Moss' cows are too skinny. Never fear, these animals are very well maintained, Kelly Moss and his family know what they are doing and they are raising the next generation of educated farmers. Anneke, Shelby and Sheridan all seemed to agree that raising animals is sometimes just "in" you.

According to Dairy Business.com, Moss' RHA (rolling heard average) is about 17,000 lbs. or close to 60 lbs of milk per cow. Mountain Shadow Dairy is just one local source of food you can learn more about at the Arizona State Fair.

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