The excitement of a new calf never gets old for me. Whether a cow has the calf on her own (about 75% of the time) or needs some help (because the calf is big, the cow isn’t interested in pushing or something more serious like a breach) watching that calf get up on it’s own legs within minutes of being born is simply cool to see. Every time. Continue reading
It is a job that needs to be done at least twice a day, every day, so it has to be done well. (some farms even do it three times a day) Here are the steps we go through to milk our cows.
Step one: Get your dip to clean each of the four teats & then get a paper towel.
This box takes a spin around the barn every time we milk, holding the clean paper towels. Using the dipper hanging from the side, we coat the teat in a disinfecting iodine solution. After waiting 15 or 30 seconds we wipe the solution clean.
Step Two: Check the milk.
Before we place the milking unit on, we want to check to make sure the milk quality is exactly as it was 12 hours ago. If we ever see something abnormal, the cow is milked into a bucket until we figure out what might be wrong. To find abnormal milk isn’t common & not the case here – so on goes the milker!
Step 3: Milkers On.
With the teats clean and the milk quality good, this milking unit is put on. A soft suction keeps it from falling off, while it gently squeezes the teats making a similar action to what you & I would have to do if we were milking her by hand. (Start at the top of the teat near the udder, gently squeeze, and pull down to the bottom of the teat)
Step 4: Wait for her to finish & then give a final dip.
Each of our milking units record how much milk flows through, and at what rate. That way, when the cow is finished it can pull the milking unit off automatically so as to not over milk the cow. When this is finished, we come along with another iodine based solution that will coat each teat again to protect against bacteria for the next 12 hours before we start the job all over again!
All of this needs to be done with calmly & patiently as cows have the ability to hold their milk. If they aren’t comfortable – they won’t give their milk. Luckily, they are quite happy with our twice-daily routine and milk flows freely! Celine chews her cud while she is milked. (an action required by cows to digest their food – something they do several hours a day)
Keeping cows happy is one of the most important jobs of a dairy farmer. After all, did you know that happy and comfortable cows give more milk? It’s true! If a cow isn’t feeling well or isn’t comfortable, they just won’t give as much milk as those that are happy, comfortable, well fed and well watered. It is why we are making a huge investment into the long term health of all of our girls with a new addition. The addition will mean more room for more cows, but will also feature some new comforts. Come for a tour!
A floor so clean you can eat off of it!
One of our changes is new, ceramic tile for the cows to eat off. Yes – the same tile that may be in your kitchen or bathroom is what our cows eat off of! Because cement can be hard for a cow to lick, the tile means a smooth surface for the cows to lick every last bit of feed up.
Daylight at night?
We may like a nice dimly lit room for a romantic dinner once in a while, but cows don’t. They are more comfortable eating with lots of light. It is why we’ve added lots of bright, white lights to help them see. The lights are even on timers, to make sure these winter nights when the sun goes down early, doesn’t cut into supper time. Then, the lights go out on their own to make it nice and dark for them to have a good night’s rest.
Big, big fans!
As a kid, I was always happy to sit in front of a fan on a hot summer day. Cows kind of like it too. But instead of getting a little fan for everyone, we’ve got several big fans (up to 5 feet wide) that will pull in fresh air at one end of the barn, and blow the stuffy, hot air out of the other end. It means the air in our 240′ long barn will change every 30 seconds in the summer. In the winter, to keep things from getting too stuffy, we’ve added ceiling vents that will open and close on the command of a thermostat. It means that when it is a cold winter night, the cows will be kept warm; and when it is a warmer winter day, new air will easily keep the barn fresh.
Mattresses for cows.
You sleep on a mattress – so do the cows! While you might like it plush, cows like a bit firmer cushion underneath them. That’s why we have a layer of recycled, shredder rubber underneath foam, underneath a tough cover that can stand up to all a cow delivers. This picture is from when construction was still on-going, because now we’ve also added a layer of fresh straw on top of the mattress that covers it up! It makes being a cow, pretty comfy.
Remember all those times when you were younger (and probably even some of you who are older) When your mom would walk into your messy room and ask “Were you raised in a barn?” when referring to the mess? In my case, most of my childhood I probably WAS found in the barn, though I think most people are ill-informed.
As farmers its our job to make sure our animals stay healthy. This job entails making sure they have the proper diet, aka no junk food! It also means they need clean water, the rule of thumb on my farm is if you wouldn’t drink the water available to the sheep, why should they? Lastly, it means making sure they have a clean ‘room’! This doesn’t mean you pick up their toys and clothes, it means giving them fresh straw so they aren’t eating and sleeping in dirty conditions.
It only takes a few hours a few times a month to “bed the barn” (which means putting down the straw in all of their pens), but you can tell everyone enjoys having a clean ‘room’.
Here is a frequent reaction we get: