Tag Archives: milking parlor

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!