Sunday, October 19, 2008


I had the wonderful opportunity to visit a robotic dairy for the first time recently when I toured Hope Acres in Brogue, PA. Our tour guide explained how the cows are trained to "Que up" on their own to start the milking process whenever they felt like it, instead of just twice a day as in the "days of old" before robotic milking. Speaking of those "days of old", one of my childhood memories is being on my grandparents farm where my Uncle Warren G would let me help him with his milking chores, even though I slowed him down from his usual routine. He was a very patient man, as I could only get out a drop or two of milk, despite my intense efforts, whereas he had the bucket full of fresh milk in what seemed like an effortless few minutes. I need to ask him what he used to clean the cows' teats that corresponded to the "automatic carwash"-type brushes I observed for this purpose in the robotic dairy. I have forgotten that part of the process---or you don't suppose we didn't clean them! Another feature of the robotic dairy that my grandparents farm definitely lacked was that each cow had an identifying radio-frequency tag that the robotic milker read, so that each cow could easily be checked on the monitor screen in the dairy barn to see how much milk she had produced at any given moment---pretty remarkable, huh? Oh yeah, another thing the milk cows at my grandparents farm didn't have is water beds and automated back scratchers. The folks at Hope Acres say the water beds protect the cows' bones/joints, enabling them to be milk producers for more years. The caption for the upper left hand corner photo might be one I recall from my travels called "Show your teats". The first time I ever saw that phrase, I was riding behind my husband on the Harley along the Interstate in South Dakota approaching Sturgis. The phrase was hand-scrawled on brown card board and attached to fences of the fields that had been turned into temporary campgrounds for the thousands of bikers that descend upon Sturgis each August. And I just didn't see one sign, it seemed as though about every 1/2 mile, I would see another hand-made sign with the same phrase. I wondered about it silently in my mind, still confused why these signs were up there. Then finally, I tapped my husband on the shoulder and asked loudly (so as to be heard over the roar of the V-twin engine) "What do those signs mean that say 'show your teats'?" As I said the words out loud, it dawned on my naive little head what they were asking, and I was "flabbergasted"! Naughty talk, for sure!! However, in the case of dairy farms, showing their teats is exactly what the cow must do to enable the rotating brushes of the robotic milker to clean her teats thoroughly before the actual milking process begins. Following the cleaning, the four suction cups of the milking machine (show in the upper right hand corner) are laser-guided to attach firmly to the teats and begin the milking process. The milk from the four separate teats goes into four separate collection devices, and each one is tested for the presence of harmful bacteria before the milk is all combined, and credited to this particular cow on the computer monitor. After the milking process is completed, the cow steps out of the stall and returns to her regular duties of eating and resting. Another cow has been waiting in line after her, so the new cow steps into position, and the process starts all over again. There are several robotic dairies around the country, and many of them allow groups to observe this fascinating use of technology. To learn more about the one I visited, you can go to their website Since the Bible talks about a "land of milk and honey", I would recommend a tour of a dairy farm to the youngsters of this era, so they can learn that REAL milk comes from one of God's creations called a cow. It has not always been in the carton you buy at the grocery store! Miles of smiles!! Tricia
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