Tag Archives: milk

How Do You Milk A Cow?

Posted on Monday, April 13, 2015 by Andrew

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.

GettingReadytoMilkThis 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.

Mar27Before 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.

MilkerEach 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)





What Does A Dairy Cow Eat?

Posted on Friday, January 2, 2015 by Andrew


For all of us, nutrition is incredibly important to our health. It is no different for a dairy cow! I’ve heard many times people compare a dairy cow to a high performance athlete, since their bodies are working to produce milk, much like an athlete is working on their chosen sport. So what does it take for a cow to reach the peak of her production?

Well, it actually starts with a sample of each of the different types of feed we will be using.


Samples of the hay, corn silage and grain corn are all sent to a lab for nutritional analysis. That way our herd’s nutritionist can create all the labels that you and I get when we buy food in the grocery store. With those labels, Dan (the nutritionist) then works to create a balanced diet based on their needs and how much they are expected to milk. He also creates a for a mineral supplement to make up for any deficiencies that our own grown crops have. He then sends along a recipe for how much of each type of feed we are to use, and we measure it down to the pound, mix it all up, and serve out a delicious, and very nutritious, meal.

Here is each item before we mix it all up (measured out as 10% of what they would eat daily).

Cows Eat

Our milking cows each eat 15.5 pounds of dry hay, 57 pounds of corn silage (it is heaviest because is more than 50% water), 12 pounds of corn ground up to powder and 8.5 pounds of vitamins & minerals (including a protein supplement) daily. Mix it all up and add another 8 pounds of water for each cow and you have a meal that is sure to satisfy!

Once we get to the summer, the cows will add a little bit of grass to their diet when they go out to the pasture and graze, but it will only make up a few pounds. They always get to choose between this mix and the grass, and this mix is always cleaned up first!

The Milk Truck is Here!

Posted on Saturday, April 5, 2014 by Andrew

It’s a great job to be able to produce high quality milk, but what good is it if it doesn’t make it to you? Well, that isn’t something we have to worry about, in part thanks to our very loyal and very important milk truck.

Milk Truck

Our milk truck backs up to the barn every other day and can pick up as much as 34 000 litres from area farms.

Every other day, the milk truck backs up to the barn, ready to take another load of milk. The driver (usually Dennis or Chris for us) takes a look inside the milk tank to make sure it looks like good, wholesome milk.

Next, they turn on the agitator which is a big paddle inside the tank that stirs the milk up. They’ll also check to make sure the temperature of the milk is nice and cool, make sure the milk and milking system has been working properly over the last 48 hours (with the help of monitoring systems that make sure the milk was always cool and the equipment was washed). Next, they take another look inside the tank to make sure the milk looks like it should.


Our milk tank has worked to keep the milk at a cool 3 degrees the last 48 hours, spinning every hour to make sure the cream doesn’t seperate.

Once the agitator stops stirring the milk, they measure how much milk is in the tank using a long pole that looks like a big ruler. That ruler is calibrated for our tank to tell the driver how many litres we have. Dennis or Chris then take a sample of the milk that is used to test for quality and make sure that nothing but pure milk is present. (If antibiotics were present, we would face enormous financial penalties and the entire truck load would be dumped)

The next big step is the big one: use a hose from the truck to hook up to the milk tank and pump the milk into the truck. This truck can hold 34 000 litres of milk collected from a number of area dairy farms. It will then be off to a processor to be made into a number of dairy products like yogurt, cheese, or even ice cream!. Most commonly, our milk heads off to Neilson Dairy in Georgetown, Ontario and can be found in all kinds of stores in bags and cartons labeled ‘milk’.

When our on-farm tank is empty and all the milk is on the truck, a wash system is turned on that will make sure the tank is sparkling by the time we are ready to milk the cows in the evening.

So, if you see a big milk truck heading down the road – give a wave to the driver who has an important step in making sure the milk gets from the farm to your fridge.

And as a note on some interesting numbers: In 2013 there were 207 milk trucks in Ontario picking up milk from 3980 dairy farms and delivering it to 71 processing plants.


How Can a Farmer Keep Your Milk Cold?

Posted on Monday, August 19, 2013 by Andrew

     It is hard to find something that goes better with warm cookies than cold milk. Same with your cereal, a sandwich piled high, or even just as an afternoon thirst quencher. Really, it is hard to find something as good as that glass of cold, fresh milk. But have you ever thought about how it comes to be so cold and stay so fresh?









     It starts at the cow – where it certainly doesn’t come cold. Our milking machines checks the temperature of the milk ion an ongoing basis as it gently milks the cow. Not only does it ensure quality milk, but it can be an early sign of an unhealthy cow when the milk is too hot or too cold. We look for 37.5-39.5 degrees Celsius. Talk about fresh! (Also recorded is how much milk the cow has given and how long it has taken. It even draws a graph to compare how many kilograms are given per minute)











     Next step is a cooler that immediately cuts the temperature of the milk in half.  It has thin plates (which is why it is called a plate cooler or heat exchanger) where the milk runs through. On the other side of each plate runs cold water, straight from our ground well. That cold water is warmed from the milk and sent to the water troughs for the cows to drink. The warm milk is cooled and sent to the bulk tank for storage and further cooling. This plate cooler saves a lot of electricity – since the electric cooler is only bringing the milk down from about 18C instead of 39C.  (The MilkGuard unit shows the temperature of the milk as the bulk tank begins to fill up)












     The bulk tank is where the milk is stored until it is ready for to be picked up (which happens every other day). Sensors in the tank keep the milk between 2C and 4C. There is also a large paddle that spins a few minutes every hour to keep the milk from separating. 









     When the milk truck comes for pick-up, the temperature is recorded down to a tenth of a degree. Nice and cold every time!






     So now when you pull that milk out of the fridge, you know it has been cold all-along!

Pick on Someone Your Own Size!

Posted on Wednesday, June 19, 2013 by Kendra

When sows farrow (give birth), they have a litter of piglets – sometimes up to 20+! Out of those piglets, most will be about the same size; but that’s not always the case.

Most sows have 14 teats, which means they can nurse up to 14 piglets comfortably. So what do we do with the rest of the piglets? We cross-foster!


Cross-fostering (which I will, from here on out, refer to as just fostering) means that we will take piglets off of a sow if she has more than 14, or give a sow a couple piglets if her own litter was less than 14 piglets. We also ensure that all piglets in a litter are the same size, giving each piglet a fair chance at nursing (drinking the sow’s milk)! If there is a tiny little piglet in a litter of larger piglets, we will swap the small one with a larger piglet. This way we will have litters of 14 small piglets, and 14 large piglets – this way, they pick on someone their own size!


Getting piglets fostered is a very essential task, and needs to be done soon after the piglets have been born and have begun nursing. Pigs are smart animals, within 72 hours of being born each piglet will have chosen a teat to nurse on and it will only nurse on that teat! For this reason, it’s very important to foster piglets as soon as possible. Stay tuned to learn more about farrowing sows and their piglets, & of course all the cute piglet pictures! 

Every Cow Has a Name – Why Not A Name Tag?

Posted on Tuesday, June 11, 2013 by Andrew

When I say the word cow – what comes to mind?b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_20120917_130548.jpg

A black & white one maybe?

Like you may have a German Shepard or a Miniature Schnauzer for a dog, farmers can have different breeds of cows. The most famous cow in books and cartoons, is also the most popular kind of dairy cow. Those black and white ones you see are ‘Holsteins’ and make up well over 90 percent of all the cows farmers raise for milk production. 

Here is another fun fact. Did you know that no two holsteins have the same spots? It is kind of like how no two people have the same fingerprint. But even when they all look different, sometimes we need help to remember who is who. That is why in our barn we keep cow name tags above each cow. These signs aren’t in all dairy barns, but we like having them to help us keep track of who-is-who, which cows belongs in which stall (don’t worry – there is a post coming soon about stalls) and remember which family tree she belongs to.

Here is an example of a sign, and what it says.

A cow's name tag!

The first line – Bellson Dolman Wonder is her full name. Bellson is our farm name, and shows which farm was responsible for breeding her mother. Dolman is her father’s name, and Wonder is her name.

Next line is her birthday followed by her beauty rating. That’s right – every cow in the herd gets a score for how pretty they are our of 100.

The next two lines show how much milk, fat and protein she has produced as a 2 year old and as a 3 year old. Those are all in kilograms. And in case you are wondering – that does mean that when she was 3 years old – she produced over 11 000 kilograms of milk!

 The next two lines are her parents’ full names (including the farms they come from). Sire is ‘Dad’ in cow language, and ‘Dam’ is mom.

Finally, the last #169 at the bottom is the number you will find on her ear tag. It is the last step to confirming that Wonder is who she says she is.

For the younger animals, we have signs with pictures to help us get familiar with which spots are on which animals. (Like below)

And now you know that cows have name tags!

Some signs even have their picture.