Let's get this clear from the start, this was no April Fool's joke. More than 150 people have come to an April 1st party on a southeastern Wisconsin farm - to pay tribute to a cow.
Not even parties for Regis Philbin draw that many people. But then, this is no ordinary cow. Granny, a cow who should be well past her retirement years, generates so much milk that she enters a milking parlor three times a day. Call her "old faithful" if you like, but this bovine geyser has just passed the lifetime milk production record in the United States.
The 17-year-old animal has produced 429,132 pounds of milk in her lifetime. Just how much milk is that? It's equal to 50,000 gallon jugs; 600,000 single-serve containers; or 42,913 pounds of cheese. Granny has furnished more than $50,000 worth of milk. And she's still churning it out.
Some perspective: this cow's udders have furnished enough milk to fill 22 average-sized swimming pools.
"There is nothing special about her genetics that should contribute to her long life, but she has good legs and feet and a functional udder and simply has a desire to milk," says Dave Koepke, herd manager.
Today, on this third-generation farm run by the Koepke family, T-shirts bear handmade slogans such as "Go Granny, Go!" Others pose the rhetorical question "Got Milk?" A proclamation presented to the farm by Wisconsin's Agriculture Secretary Rod Nilsestuen and signed by Governor James Doyle is being passed around.
Neighbors and friends in John Deere and Case-IH hats, meanwhile, are basking in 70-degree weather with Wisconsin's official snack of choice, cheese, downed with sips of - what else? - milk.
So what was Granny doing while representatives of the agricultural organizations presented plaques to her human family? Naturally, she was milking it for all it's worth.
She began the day with a bath and was greeted by the local groomer who styled her hair. With a little grooming the graying that is beginning to take place in some spots was barely visible. Topping it all off were a couple of yellow earrings for the occasion (well, her identification numbers, in truth, placed in the ear so the Koepkes can monitor her health and well-being).
After a nail (or hoof) manicure - and the addition of a pointy party hat - she was ready to party. Well, OK, maybe party is too strong a word. With expressions that ranged from bemused to bored, Granny spent the afternoon in a sand-bedded stall under a tent set up on the family's front yard. Guests were seated on rows of straw bales watching her chew the cud. It wasn't exactly an Oscar-worthy speech, to be honest.
The farm's owners compare Granny to baseball hero Hank Aaron whose abilities were never really recognized until late in his career.
Even when there is a Hammering Hank on the team, though, it takes teamwork to produce milk and set records.
Mr. Koepke credits family and employees for her longevity and good health and says it can be attributed to many factors. The Holstein cow, one of 44 in the Koepke herd whose ancestry can be traced back to a popular bull known as Bell, is still going strong.
Koepke credits those who maintain and clean the sand beds where she and her herdmates lie. That, and the cow's temperament.
"While Granny was never a star in our herd, in a world of contented cows, she was always the most content," he says. "She has a high IQ She gets along well with the other cows and doesn't push her way around. She doesn't crowd into the feed bunk, but goes to eat when the others lie down."