Making Hay
Week of January 4th, 2004 | The weather was again snowy.

What a ride!

What a ride!

Well, I surely have been enjoying my Christmas break from school. Most kids my age would be hanging out with friends, visiting relatives, sleeping in, watching movies, or going out and doing whatever. I have done some different things during break that I'm really glad I had the opportunity to do. Last week's journal, I shared how I spent the day at St. Ansgar Mills doing job shadowing. I not only took care of a class assignment, but also had a great time learning a lot about the business. This past week, I stayed overnight at an Organic Valley dairy farm southwest of Alta Vista. This is the same farm I visited a year ago. I thought it would be interesting to revisit one year later to see how things have changed, if any. I had a lot of fun!!

On Tuesday evening, I went to the farm and watched the family milk about 50 dairy cows. It takes about 2 hours to do this. Before we started milking, we had a delicious supper.

The family's operation can only hold eight cows for milking at one time. The first step to milking is to spray sanitizing teat dip on the teats where the milk comes out. Then, the teat dip is wiped off. This dip kills germs. Next, the milkers are placed on the teats. It takes only a few minutes for the milkers to milk the eight cows. After the milkers automatically are pulled off the teats, they have to be dipped with post-milking teat dip. This is a conditioner that kills germs, as well. After all eight cows are finished, they are released back into their pen and the next batch of eight cows are milked the same way. Some milking parlors are larger than this. Dad has a friend in Pennsylvania who milks 24 cows at one time!

After milking was finished, we went into the house and had a snack before bed. Morning comes early for dairy farmers. At 5:30 the next morning, we were back to milking the cows again. The whole family is in the barn. While the baby sleeps in the stroller in the corner of the milking parlor, both of the parents and the two older boys share in the workload. The two boys are younger than me and are good workers. I helped with putting the milkers on and watched the cows get milked. After milking, we had breakfast. The local veterinarian came after we finished eating. He came to do pregnancy tests on the cows. This is done every year. Later that morning, the farmer and I took a horse and buggy ride to North Washington, about 3 1/2 miles from the farm. I never rode in a buggy before. It was a lot of fun!!! The buggy is very small compared to cars. The bench seats are wide enough for two average sized men. There are two benches. The tires are tall and very narrow. Narrow tires are much easier to pull because there is less friction. The tires have a strip of rubber. There is one pedal inside of the buggy brakes. The two doors slide open and close. The windshield is divided in half. They have hinges so you can lift them up and lock them on the ceiling. It even has a windshield wiper! After the horse and buggy returned to the farm, I took a picture. The horse was full of sweat! The sweat evaporates from the horse. It almost looked like it was dunked in a pool of water! The horse was unhitched from the buggy and went back into the shed for food, water, and rest. The buggy is pushed into the garage.

Over the noon hour, the milkman came to pick up the milk. The milk is picked up every other day. The farm has an 800 gallon milk tank for storage until the milk truck hauls it to the processing plant. The milkman first washes the milk tank before hooking the hose up. Next, the hose carries the milk from the tank to the truck. Meanwhile, the milkman takes a sample for testing. The testing takes place at the processing plant. After the tank is empty, the tank is washed and rinsed with soap detergent and cleaning acid.

After the milkman left, I thanked my friends for allowing me to stay overnight. I really didn't see any change in their milking operation from last year. He still milks the same amount of cows. I enjoyed my stay and they welcomed me back anytime. I learned a lot while being on the farm.

On Friday, Mom and I toured the Organic Valley butter processing plant, in Chaseburg, Wisconsin. This is where the milk is delivered to, from the Organic Valley dairy farm that I stayed at. I will share about our experience at the plant next week.

(Check out glossary of farm terms for photos and definitions on milking.)

Farm Fact: The amount of milk produced each year by a cow can be increased by a proper diet. Dairy cows usually receive 1 pound of grain for every 4 to 6 pounds of milk. Cows eat a lot of good quality forages to make milk, too. One gallon of milk is equal to 8.6 pounds of milk.

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