The final farm update

Catch up with life on the farm one last time


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Cajas National Park in Cuenca

If you’ve been keeping up with my weekly farm updates, you know that I live on a dairy/steer farm and have a few hobby animal projects with my younger brother, Victor. It was a relaxed week on the family farm with nothing new to report. The animals were fed and taken care of, and planting season continued to take place thanks to the great weather we are having.
This planting season has been so much better than last year when we had constant rainfall that prevented any of the farmers to get in the fields: fingers crossed that this nice weather with the occasional rain continues throughout the summer.
At the dairy farm I work for it’s been a busy week. We had several cows calve in, some with multiple babies. One of the Brown Swiss cows, Sassy, calved this week; she had a set of twin bull calves. The first calf came out perfectly, feet and head first, and didn’t require any assistance. His brother was quite the opposite. I am told he was upside down and backwards and needed quite a bit of help making his way into the world.
They are large calves, both with red and white spots because their dad was a red and white Holstein. We named the first calf “Forward” and the second calf “Reverse” due to the way they made their entrance into the world.
We also had a Jersey heifer birth her first calf, a little bull calf that I called “Bambi” because he had the hardest time learning to stand. Every time we’d pick him up to try and help him get used to his legs he’d flop over and let out a tiny “moo”. It took quite a few attempts to get him up and walking, but on day three he finally took his first steps.
While I did calf chores, I let him out of his pen so he could explore the barn and practice using his legs. I went and saw him the other day when I wasn’t scheduled to work, and he was already standing up on his own waiting for his bottle, which was awesome to see.
The dairy that I work at, Cedar View Dairy, has two farm locations. One farm is called Oak Creek Dairy and is a double 8 parlor with a 140-cow free stall barn that houses a large majority of our milking cows. A double 8 parlor means that you can milk 16 cows at a time, 8 cows on each side of the room.
Our free stall barn has 140 water mattress beds: yes, water mattresses. The water mattresses are easy on the cows’ joints and move to form to the shape of the cow’s body. The cows are split into two different pens; the first group has all our Holstein and a few Brown Swiss cows, and the second group has all of the Jersey cows. We keep the cows separated by breeds because the Jerseys are so much smaller than the Holsteins and we want to prevent bullying from the bigger cows.
We milk cows at the parlor twice a day at 4 a.m. and 4 p.m. with two people milking and one person mixing feed for the cows to eat as soon as they come back to the barn from milking. It takes about three hours to milk all the cows, including cleaning up the parlor after the cows are back in their pens. After milking, the cows have the rest of the day to lay on their comfortable beds and eat the fresh feed that is always available.
The second farm location is the original farm, a.k.a. the Home Farm, that has been in the family for generations. This is where all of our calves are born and raised, where the dry cows (cows that are waiting to have their calves) are housed and where our fresh cows and the older, larger cows are milked.
Milking at the Home Farm takes place at 5:30 a.m. and p.m. in a stanchion barn. The cows live in a free stall barn on sand beds, which are also easy on their joints. They are brought into the barn and almost every cow has a spot there that is “her spot”, and she won’t stand anywhere else to get milked. This is because cows love routine and keeping things regular.
We have automatic take off milkers we plug into a pipeline that goes down the barn above the cows, and we move these milkers down the barn as we milk. Milking here takes about one and a half hours and is done by one person. We milk an average of about 35 cows here along with any cows that just had a calf, which are called Fresh cows. We keep the fresh cows at the Home Farm for a few days so we can watch their health and then send them to the parlor to be milked and housed with the rest of the herd.
I milked a few times at the Home Farm this week and took care of the calves. The calves are housed in a calf barn where we feed them milk via an automatic calf feeder. Each calf wears a collar with a tag on it so when they come into the feeding box, a sensor reads the tag and decides how much that calf is allowed to drink at that time. It also mixes the milk, and the calf sucks from a rubber nipple in front of it.
The automatic feeder allows the calves to decide when they want to eat and how often. This requires less human labor, since we don’t have to mix and distribute calf bottles to each calf twice a day. Every day when we do calf chores, we have to look at the computer in the barn to see who is eating and who is not. It also tells us how many days the calf has on milk before it will be weaned.
When the calves are born, we do keep them in an individual pen so that we can keep an eye on them, just like we do with their mothers. After two weeks of living in an individual pen, the calf is given its first vaccine and allowed to go in the large pen with the rest of the calves on the automatic feeder.
It was a busy week on the dairy farm with lots of new baby calves and lots of cows to milk; all the while, milk prices continue to lower. I love my job, because I know that I am helping to provide a healthy and delicious product that will feed families in my community and the surrounding areas. In times like these farmers need your help. If you want to help show your support, please consider donating milk to your local food pantry, and be sure to pick up a jug or two for yourself!
This will be my final farm update, so I hope you have enjoyed learning about my life on the farm and what we do to keep the grocery stores stocked with amazing products for you and your family. If you ever have any farm or agriculture related questions, please feel free to reach out; I would be happy to try and answer your questions! Have a happy summer and remember: drink milk!