15 September 2007 On Thursday, we headed to a modern dairy farm. I spent a good part of my first decade on a family dairy farm with 100 or so dairy cows, horses, chicken, turkeys and many acres in crop production. This is how I remember a dairy farm, herding the cows in from the fields, cleaning up after them and planting and harvesting the crops. This “farm” is nothing like that. It is fully automated with only the land the buildings sit on along and a storage area for cattle feed and waste by products actually in use. The cattle never leave the buildings and herding them only involved opening and closing the various gates to move them from one area to another.
Even though this is more like a factory than a farm to me, it was very well organized and within the limitations of it really being a milk factory, they seemed to take good care of the cattle in terms of looking after their health and to the extent possible in the confining spaces, their social well being. They moved cattle around in groups to avoid isolation issues and tracked some of their individual traits to treat them as individuals, where possible.
The actual milking process is fully automated with milking machines that monitor the progress of each cow and automatically completes the process. When the cows in the milking row are all done a mechanical arm is raised and the cows are moved to be replaced by the next group. There are 700 animals in the two barns and likely over five hundred are in the milking cycle every day. Each cow is milked three times a day for maximum output from each animal.
The farm does most of it own doctoring the animals and delivers all the calves. This is as many as 7-10 a week, which are shipped off for raising off the premises. Cows are artificially inseminated also by the farm and all animals are in one of three phrases, milking producing, pregnant, or in a resting cycle.
It was very interesting, but made me very glad that I am not living and working on a farm. It is certainly not the rural country living I remembered for people or animals. But then-nothing never stays the same.
Anneke was especially interested in this farm, because it is Dutch owned. Several Dutch families have moved to the area starting this kind of dairy farm.