Saturday, April 14, 2012

Out of the Office

A few days ago I got to get out of the office for a bit to visit two dairies nearby. A group of us from work went to learn more about either dairy farms in general, for those with no dairy experience, or about the specific operations, for those of us with industry experience. The vast majority of us had a least been to a dairy before, but I was only 1 of 3 who had been raised on a dairy and thus was asked plenty of great questions from those who weren't.

The first dairy we visited was Larson Acres. Larson's is a family operation with about 3,000 cows total separated into two milking parlors. The barn pictured above is the free stall barn for the newer milking parlor. This barn is 1/4 mile long and houses a little over half their herd. Larson's expanded within the last few years to built the new parlor and this barn.

This is Larson's newer milking parlor, a double 20 parallel milking parlor. The parlor holds 40 cows at a time and milks just about 24/7, as the cows milk 3 times a day rather than the more typical twice a day. It's outfitted with the SmartDairy herd management system to monitor milk flow and yield, ID each cow as she comes in, and more. 

I didn't take any pictures at the second dairy we visited, Brown's Dairy. Brown's is a family operation as well, but with 140 cows. The owner hires one full-time and one part-time milker, but otherwise does the vast  majority of the farm work, with both the dairy cattle and the fieldwork, by himself. His 4 kids occasionally help, though one is a college graduate with an off the farm job and another is a senior in college. Milking is done in a double 8 parallel parlor that was retrofitted from an old tie-stall barn and the office has a picture window overlooking the parlor, and is done at 3 am and 3 pm. After leaving Brown's, one of my coworkers in engineering commented that dairy farming is a hard life. I couldn't agree more, but it's one that dairy farmers love.

Getting out of the office to visit farms was refreshing and fun, as I always enjoy visiting different operations and seeing how other farms run. What's especially interesting to me is seeing how the larger farms, like Larson Acres, run because I am much more used to my family's 38 cow dairy and the bf's family's 80 cow dairy. 

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