Tour the Dairy Farm
The dairy barn is a tie-stall holding 112 animals in the main part. The milking herd averages 85 cows. The balance of the herd is heifer calves to bred heifers. Milking takes place twice a day, 4:30 a.m. and p.m with a pipeline milking system. The milk and equipment is stored in the milkhouse. The milk truck delivers the raw milk to the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery.
The Creamery ships fluid milk to processing plants. They also package the St. Albans Coop Creamie Mix for commercial machines. A blending plant is operated that powders milk on holidays and Sundays when bottling and processing facilities aren’t open to receive milk.
Once a month a tester comes to the barn and weighs how much milk each cow produced during that milking. She also takes a sample of each cow’s milk and it is tested in a laboratory for butterfat, protein, and leucocytes. She records breeding and birthing information as well as pregnancy checks from the vet. At this time, she gives heifer calves born in the last month their ear tag numbers, records their dam and sire, date of birth and starts a record that will follow the calf throughout her life.
The veterinarian visits the cows every other week for a scheduled, herd health clinic. She makes recommendations for vaccinations, medications and treatments to maintain herd health and to treat sick animals. She performs pregnancy checks and dehorns heifer calves. The vet service utilized by the farm has a vet on call 24/7 to see any animal that may require medical attention after hours, weekends and holidays.
The barn is designed for cow comfort. Cow comfort and milk production go hand in hand. The cows enjoy waterbed mattresses, eat off a tiled feed alley and the larger stalls give them ample room to lie down. Dairy cows drink about 35 gallons of water and eat roughly 100 pounds of food each day producing on average 80 pounds of milk and 90 pounds of waste each day.
The four sets of balloon curtains are regulated by temperature sensors and computer monitors giving the barn four season ventilation. The barn’s air system takes advantage of the natural airflow during the spring and fall of the year. During the coldest winter months the barn maintains an average temperature of a comfortable 44 degrees while changing out the air in the barn four times a day. During the summer months a tunnel of air is pulled through the barn giving relief from humidity and heat.
From November to May bred heifers are housed at the northern end of the barn. These heifers are over 12 months and most are expecting their first calf by the age of 2 years. From May to November, bred heifers are in pastures until 3 to 4 weeks before giving birth.
The last cows in the barn are the dry cows. Dry cows are in the late stages of pregnancy and have not been milking for 2 months. Dry cows are fed forages produced on the farm with more dry hay for roughage as well as a purchased pre-partum grain with extra vitamins and minerals. Once a dry cow has had her calf she’s now a fresh cow and moves in with the milking herd.
The youngest animals are kept in the nursery, from newborn to six months. Initially, these calves receive their mother’s colostrum in a bottle. For the first 3 months they are fed milk from a bucket twice a day. The calves are offered molasses grain, then hay, and eventually a little silage. Calves learn how to drink milk from a bucket and how to work a water bowl. Good early nutrition is very important to these fast growing heifers that will one day be milking cows.
Like any baby animal, the calves are especially curious and will put everything in their mouths. Many visitors have been “slimed” when caught with their long tongues.
The farm feeds their livestock a Total Mixed Ration (TMR) that consists of forages produced on our 200 tillable acres and a purchased grain from our feed company. Each week the dairy nutritionist takes samples of our forages; haylage, corn silage and dry hay. From harvest to harvest and field to field the nutritional values of the forage changes and a grain formula making up that difference is purchased to keep all the cows on the feed program with optimum nutrition.
The feed mixer’s computer program automatically mixes the food to the right proportions for the nutritional needs of each group of animals. Recipes are stored and animal numbers are entered daily into the program. The farm feeds approximately 10,000 lbs of food daily.