General knowledge is one thing, but an actual demonstration of how things are done now, compared to boyhood memories of doing the same job, is definitely something else.
Yesterday, I got brought up to date on how a typical, medium-sized dairy farm milks cows. Our granddaughter is living with us now and has a job milking cows on such a farm. She leaves here each morning at 5:30 a.m. for the morning milkings, so when invited to go with her and observe, I chose the evening session.
My farming career did not include dairy cows, so my experience with milking cows went back to the time of hand-milking, when my father and grandfather were cream shippers. They kept six to eight cows and I was expected to milk one or two before school each morning and at “chore time,” before supper. I also was given the task of driving the cows to pasture in the morning and bringing them home in time for evening chores. This contact with cows taught me many things that I used when I supported beef cows during the 1980s and 1990s - they were supposed to be supporting me, but it seldom worked out that way.
Cows have come a long way since then. I saw, for the first time, what the owner called a “cow-brush” in action. This large cylinder, with a brush-like surface, is suspended from the ceiling of the loafing area in this free-stall barn. The cows activate this device by pushing it off its vertical, at rest, position. It then rotates and the cows soon learn to use it to remove dirt and loose hair from their bodies, and they love it. It is like having a personal groomer.
The air is fresh and without strong odours, thanks to the ventilation system and design of the barn. The feed is a totally mixed ration (TMR), delivered via a self-propelled hopper cart along a feedline on one side of the free-stall area. The growing, storing and mixing of the feed is another very interesting story.
What I had gone to see was the milking operation, and that clean, efficient operation really blew me away. The owner was telling me that robotic milking was the newest trend and close to half of large, new dairy operations were making this huge investment now.
I told him that his operation looked very efficient to me and his cows and my granddaughter seemed to be happy with it.
Leta’s father was one of the original directors of Twin Cities Cooperative (now Farmers) so we are pleased to see Caitlin getting some experience in the basic part of the industry.