Tag Archives: milking parlor

Virtual Tours Bring Dairy Farms to the Classroom

There’s a new way for classrooms to take field trips, thanks to technology. Instead of bringing kids to the farm, we’re bringing dairies to a school near you.

In schools nationwide, it isn’t always possible for students to take educational field trips due to time or funding constraints and transportation logistics. These field trips are missed among teachers and students alike, as they can play an integral part of the learning process. Field trips are also one of the best ways to learn about agriculture.

IMG_1147

“Field trips help students see, experience and learn about agriculture straight from the source. Students love the opportunity to experience something new, and teachers welcome the opportunity for a guest to share with their class,” says Jessica Jansen, Executive Director for Oregon Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation.

Thanks to technology, there is a new way to learn about agriculture without ever having to board a school bus. It’s as simple as connecting via a smartphone and laptop for a virtual tour.

Recently, the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council partnered with Oregon Agriculture in the Classroom to host a virtual field trip at Rickreall Dairy. “It is incredibly important in my industry to educate students about what we do on a dairy farm,” says Louie Kazemier, owner of Rickreall Dairy, who also hosts traditional field trips every spring for more than 1,500 people yearly. “It gives students an opportunity to learn about where their food comes from, and also encourages them to think about career opportunities in agriculture.”

Agriculture in the Classroom, a nationwide educational program, is designed to help students develop an awareness and understanding that agriculture is the source of our food, clothing, shelter and other essentials. “At Oregon Agriculture in the Classroom we are passionate about connecting academic concepts to agricultural topics, and virtual farm field trips are a great way to do just that,” says Jansen. “We’re providing students the opportunity to witness new and exciting topics while showing them how this connects to what they are learning in the classroom.”

IMG_6049

For a dairy virtual tour, teachers sign up though the Agriculture in the Classroom website. A limited number of classrooms can sign up, and the first tour was booked in less than 24 hours. A week prior to the tour, the classroom receives a sensory box to explore items that they will view during the tour. For dairy farming, they focus on items that students can touch and smell like alfalfa, grain, and ear tags.

There are opportunities to learn about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) though virtual tours. Whether it’s the math of converting pounds of milk into gallons, or the science of animal nutrition, STEM learning opportunities are abundant on a dairy farm.

“Through a field trip we provide students and educators context and relevancy with examples of why it’s important to know math, science and other content areas. The math alone on a dairy farm is extensive and helping students see how important it is and it being used is priceless for students,” says Jansen.

IMG_1155

The tours are filmed live using Zoom videoconferencing, but there are other platforms that could be used as well. “We recently brought 500 3rd through 5th graders through our barns in a little under an hour just by using Zoom,” says Kazemier, “and not only do they get to hear me explain what they are seeing on the screen, but they also get to ask their own questions in real-time.”

“One of my goals at the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council is to make it as easy as possible for dairy farmers to share their farms with students,” says Stacy Foster, Industry Relations and Communications Manager at ODNC. “Dairy farmers are incredibly busy. Virtual tours provide an opportunity for us to reach across the state of Oregon to hundreds of students in only one hour.”

Kazemier also appreciates that virtual tours can educate beyond traditional field trips. “There are places on a dairy farm that we would never go with students due to concerns of liability, biosecurity and cleanliness. With the virtual tour, we can literally give classrooms a “backstage pass” to our facility. They get to walk where the cows walk, and get up close and personal with our animals,” says Louie Kazemier.

IMG_6048

“While virtual farm field trips shouldn’t be a replacement for all farm field trips, it’s a great way to reach students who might not ever have the opportunity for a field trip,” says Jansen. Agriculture in the Classroom has plans to continue the program, with dairy and other agriculture sectors. “We’ll be planning two more dairy field trips, a series of two ranch-related tours this spring and a few crop-related experiences. Interested teachers can sign up for updates on our website.”

RELATED LINKS:

Virtual Farm Field Trip at Rickreall Dairy 

Calf Barn Virtual Field Trip at Rickreall Dairy

21st Century Dairy Farm, 21st Century Dairy Farmer

Today’s modern dairy farm is a far cry from what many people envision. Technology plays a very important role in dairy farming — from caring for cows to caring for natural resources. In Oregon, more and more dairy farmers are installing robotic milking systems for their cows.

With robotic milking systems, the cows are responsible for their own milking. They voluntarily enter a safe and clean stall when they’re ready to be milked — usually two to three times daily. Using an optical camera and lasers, the robot cleans and preps the cow’s udder, attaches and retracts the vacuum milking cups, and treats the udder post-milking to prevent infection. A meter continually monitors such things as milk quality and content or milking intervals — how often a cow comes through the stall.

The system’s software management alerts the farmer if anything is amiss. So if there’s anything abnormal about the milk quality, it’s automatically diverted away from the main milk supply. Or if a cow isn’t following her normal schedule, it may be an indication she’s not feeling well and the farmer is alerted. It’s real-time insight to each cow, individually. The cows also respond exceptionally well to the predictability and routine of the robots.

Robotics is just one of many ways that modern dairy farmers are evolving. Dairy farms across Oregon are already using RFID ear tags to monitor herd health, in addition to automated feeders, solar panels, methane digesters, GPS driven tractors, observation drones, computerized irrigation and much more. Technology is used not only to help make dairy farmers more efficient, but also to better care for their cows, the environment and their communities.

You can read more about robotic milking systems at two Oregon dairies in these recent headlines:

Mechanized milking
Local dairy goes high-tech with robotic upgrade

The Argus Observer
Dairylain Farms | The Chamberlain Family | Vale, OR

Tilla-Bay Farms celebrates five years as a robotic dairy with open house
Tillamook Headlight Herald
Tilla-Bay Farms, Inc | The Mizee Family | Tillamook, OR
Full text of the article available here for those without a subscription.

What I Learned on My First Visit to a Dairy Farm

by Lindsay LeBrun, Graduate Student in Clinical Nutrition, Oregon Health & Science University

Lindsay LeBrunAs a nutrition intern for the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council, I recently had the opportunity to visit a dairy farm outside of Salem, Oregon, during my second week on the job. Since I didn’t grow up on a farm or have a background in dairy, this tour was an opportunity for me to learn about dairy production practices. I was also eager to learn what kinds of questions kids and parents had about milk and dairy.

After the hour-long car ride down I-5 from Portland, I made my final turn into a gravel parking lot and instantly knew I had found the right place. The excited yelps of fourth graders posing for a class picture made me turn my head as I stepped from my car. With cheesy grins they assembled in front of the wooden sign proudly proclaiming our location: “Rickreall Dairy.”

Cows eatingThis class is one of many that get a firsthand look at where their favorite dairy foods come from. At Rickreall Dairy, tour leader Stacy Foster conducts more than a dozen tours of the farm during the spring. The success of the program has allowed her to now expand to offering tours in the fall, and I was joining for the last tour of the season.

Foster, whose father owns the farm, began by acknowledging that she wouldn’t have hurt feelings if the kids (or parents) plug their noses. She admits it’s stinky, but that is to be expected when over 3,500 cows call this place home. Foster then asks the group if they know what milk is good for. Almost every hand goes up, and the chosen student announces, “bones.” “That’s right,” says Foster. “Milk has calcium and vitamin D for strong bones.”

Foster then leads us straight to the where the action happens: the milking parlor. This room operates 24 hours a day to ensure each cow gets two or three daily milking sessions. Foster tells us that each cow produces roughly 10 gallons every day, and overall the dairy produces 16,500 gallons daily! “Can you guys drink all of that milk?” she asks. A few cheeky responders reply with a “yes.” Foster laughs and says, “Well, you could probably eat all of that ice cream!”

We move on to the maternity barn where the sounds of the milking machines can no longer be heard. The children are excited to see two newborn calves beginning to take their first wobbly steps. This gives Foster the chance to explain the life cycle of a cow on the farm. The kids are surprised to hear that cows don’t just grow up and give milk – like humans, they have to have a baby first. As the kids peer over the enclosures to get a closer look, parents begin raising questions for Foster. “Is organic better than conventional milk?” “Can you taste a difference between different brands?” Foster points out that all milk sold in stores is held to the same standards for safety and quality. In fact, there are 27 regulatory agencies that Rickreall Dairy works with to be in compliance.

Calf milk bottlesWe end our tour by moving into the barn that houses the calves. “Who wants to bottle feed a calf?” asks Foster. She is met with an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response from kids and parents alike. The children each grab a bottle and file down the row of calves, who eagerly stick their head out in anticipation of the meal. The children giggle as the calves gobble all of it down, and the bottles are drained within minutes.

For most of these kids, and for me, this is the first time they have seen a dairy farm firsthand. The tours at Rickreall Dairy are a unique opportunity to help kids connect the farm to table concept. Their faces light up when presented with the idea that the cows they met today could be the same ones that made the milk in their fridge. For parents, they enjoy having questions resolved to help them make good choices in what they feed their children. As for myself, I loved gaining insight into food system production and hearing about what the consumers wanted to know. A huge thank you to Rickreall Dairy and the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council for making this experience possible!