Making Hay
Week of January 5th, 2003 | The weather was pretty cold. Happy New Year.

Cows being milked

Cows being milked

Happy New Year! May this New Year bring peace to you throughout the world.

Monday, (December 30) Mom took me to Waterloo, Iowa, for my annual doctor appointment. Every year, I have a check-up on my heart and the area around it. After I was born, I became ill and the doctors found out that I had a coarctation (a blocked right aortic valve). I had it surgically corrected in Iowa City when I was 3 months old because it went from a 10% blocked area to 90%. I haven't had any problems since, except I have a heart murmur so I have to have annual checkups, EKG's, and so forth. My checkup went well and the good news is that the doctor will determine next year if I need to continue my annual tests and checkup.

Tuesday evening our truck broke down. This became a real problem for Dad to travel around to do his errands because he did not have a vehicle. Instead, Mom had to do some of the errands for him in her car. That night, I had one of my friends, Mike, over for New Year's. We watched some movies, but of course, didn't miss out on bringing in the New Year!

On Wednesday, (January 1) Dad, Mike, and I went out on the farm pond. Dad made a campfire and we had hot dogs and hot chocolate. After eating, Dad drove the ATV on the ice (the ice was a good 6 inches thick). Mike and I tied a long rope to the back end of the ATV and sat in a sled hanging on to the rope. Since there is no snow on the ground, Dad would pull us around on the pond with the ATV (also spinning us). It was fun until you fell off the sled! Even Sammy, our dog, had to jump on the sled for a ride! We took Mike back home after it got dark on Wednesday. We had a lot of fun!

I went back to school on Thursday and Friday. Thursday, Dad went to a pork pool meeting with a neighboring Organic Valley pork producer. The pork pool members discussed ways farmers can join the pool. The pool may need more farmers to help produce pork.

Friday, Dad fixed the truck. Now, he can do all the errands he needs to! Saturday, Dad and I went to New Hampton to pick up some gates that we ordered from a company. When we got back home, we hung these gates up to the posts. We needed these gates to keep the hogs in and unwanted visitors out.

Remember when I spent a day at an Organic Valley dairy farm last week? This week I will share about my experiences milking cows.There were many steps in milking cows. The first one was to move the cows to the corner in a shed where they were held until the milking parlor was ready for them. The only cow that did not go into the milking parlor was the bull (father cow). He breeds the other cows so they can have calves. After the milking parlor was ready for cows, we would open the door and let eight cows come through (only eight cows can be milked at one time). After all eight cows were in their stalls, we would shut the back gates so they couldn't escape. To keep the cows calm, there were troughs to eat grain out of.

Now, we would spray sanitizing teat dip on the teats (nipples where the milk comes from) to kill germs. We also wiped the dip off of the teats so it wouldn't get in the milk. Then, I got to put the milkers on the teats. The milkers are tubes that automatically milk the cow. After all of the milkers were on, we would sit down and wait for the milking machines to do their work (milking the cow). This usually takes a few minutes. After the cow was milked, a machine pulled the milkers off of the teats using a rope. Then, we dip post-milking teat dip (like a teat conditioner) on the teats. After all of the cows were done, we would open the front gate and the door. The eight cows would go back into their pen; not mixing with the other cows that still had to be milked. The cows could then eat again, and begin to produce more milk. Next, we would let eight more cows come in and repeat the process until all of the cows were milked. I put my finger in one of the milkers while it was on. It felt like my finger was being sucked in the milker and it was also pinching my finger gently. That's how you milk a cow. You gently pinch the teat and pull down. I milked a few cows for fun. I liked that, but my arms got tired really fast.

After the milk is pressured into the milker, it goes into a small bowl where the rest of the milk goes into from the other milkers. Then, the milk is sucked up pipes and into a large pipe that collects milk from all of the cows. Now, the milk travels into a different room and goes through a cleaner and a filter (to keep contaminants out of the milk). Then, the milk is poured into the milk tank and waits for the milk truck to come and pick it up.

I was lucky to be at the dairy farm on the day that the milk truck came because it comes every other day. When the Organic Valley milk truck came, I watched what the milkman did. First, he hooked the hose up to the milk tank, then, started pumping the milk from the tank and into the truck. While the milk is being pumped out, the milkman takes a sample of the milk. After all of the milk is gone, he unhooks the hose and puts the power washer on the tank and the washer cleans the tank with soap and water. After the tank is washed, he hauls the milk to the Organic Valley butter plant in Chaseburg, Wisconsin where the milk is made into the Organic Valley butter. I have been to the butter plant twice and have really enjoyed seeing what goes on at the plant.

It was VERY interesting looking at a dairy farmer's chores compared to ours! The biggest difference is the fact that you have to be milking every morning and night. The cows can't wait to be milked whenever! It was a great experience for me to learn about caring for another farm animal I have never had the chance of being around. I really enjoyed my stay with the family. They were very nice and kind to me. I'd love to do it again!

Farm Fact: A cow weighs about 1400 pounds. They drink 25-50 gallons of water each day. That's nearly a bathtub full! What a cow eats affects how much milk she gives. A dairy cow produces about 200,000 glasses of milk in her lifetime. (I got this off of the Internet.)

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