Alright… it’s high time to get the nickel-tour of the dairy!
This is our feeding barn… we bring our cows up group by group to be fed before they walk into the parlour to be milked.
Here is our commodity barn where we store the different grains that we use in our feeds. Parked next to it is the reel auggie that we use to custom mix and measure the cows’ feed rations. We use a combination of corn meal, soybean meal, and cottonseed in different ratios, depending on the nutritional needs of that group.
While the cows are eating their grain ration, we can lock their heads in place to allow us to safely perform “cow maintenance” tasks such as applying tail chalk and AI breeding (see previous post on preparations for breeding season!), replacing lost name tags, and monitoring their feed intake.
Where is your name tag, missy?? Luckily she is wearing a transponder collar that can still identify her electronically when she walks into the parlour to be milked. Identity is very important at the dairy, especially for keeping track of all of our crossbreeding data! Check out the abstract of a recent publication on crossbreeding data collected on the CEFS Cherry Dairy herd!
Once the cows have finished eating, they then walk to the end of the barn to have a drink before entering the parlour.
Here is what one of the the milking parlor lanes looks like to a cow. We have two lanes of cows milking at once, as part of a “swing parlor” milk system design. Cows are identified as they walk into the parlor, and each milking cup has an associated computer that shows you her number and how much milk she has produced during this milking. Once she finishes milking, you swing the arm over to the other side of the parlor and the computer then shows the number of the corresponding cow on the other side. It is a very efficient design, especially for milking multiple groups of cows!
Once the cows are finished milking, they walk through our Spalding Labs fly vac as part of a research experiment on controlling flies of different species. This design specifically targets face flies, which are a problem pest in eastern North Carolina, along with other fly species. Basically, the machine blows air onto the cows to disturb the flies, and then vacuums them up into a collecting vessel that contains them. I love this system–it is an excellent form of fly control that avoids using noxious fly repellents!
It takes some getting used to for the heifers who have never seen a fly vac before, much less walked through one! But after a few tries they don’t mind walking through it at all–the blowers and vacuums are very quiet and most of the time we forget that it’s even on.
Here is the netting where the flies are collected. These flies will be identified, quantified, and sampled to determine what diseases they might play a role in transmitting from animal to animal on our farm. Research like this will help us better understand what contributes to mastitis outbreaks on dairy farms, and how fly control might play a role in averting these outbreaks!
That’s all for the tour!