Get to Know Your Breakfast: The Life of a Dairy Cow
Published on June 14, 2013 by Karen Newmeyer
On a chilly Saturday morning in April, I woke up early to join three of my vet tech program classmates—Sydney Howlett, Yvonne Peterson and Teena Wright—on a tour of Bateman Mosida Farms in Elberta, Utah. For vet tech program students at Broadview University-Orem, it was the tour of a lifetime.
Farm owner, Lance Bateman, met us at the barn and took us on a tour of the dairy and its facilities.
Our first stop was the calves. More than a hundred calves greeted us as the truck pulled to a stop in front of them. Holstein, Jersey, Guernsey, Red Swiss, Brown Swiss and others said hello to us from their hutches. We arrived a little late to watch their feeding, but it was still fascinating to watch them in their natural habitat.
We also got to visit the one-day-old calves. It was a sweet experience to be able to help the newborn calves stand up and walk out to the truck where they were then driven to the hutches.
Bateman Mosida Farms strongly believes that healthy cows are happy cows. As such, they take great care to ensure the health of each one.
At the medication arena, cows who are going through postpartum depression, lameness, or have other medical concerns are treated and cared for by large animal veterinarians and their staff. Vitamins and other medications are given in large capsules called boluses, administered either in their feed or by injection. Each cow also wears a pedometer which tracks the distance traveled as well as other health information. This information is then added to the cow’s health log on the computer so that the dairy can keep close tabs on the health and well-being of every cow on the farm.
My favorite part came when Mr. Bateman drove us to the milking facilities and we had the opportunity to watch the milking process from a boardwalk. At the sound of a whistle, the cows walked up the path to the milking stalls. A second whistle blew and the cows entered the stalls. Four men in the “pit” then sprayed the udders down and cleaned them with a disinfectant, after which they attached mechanical milking machines to each udder and pressed a start button.
The milking machines recognized each cow and monitored the milk output. If a particular cow was providing less milk than usual, a red light would flash and it would be recorded on the computer. When the milking process was finished, the machines turned off and a whistle blew. The bars holding the cows in place then opened up and the cows walked out of the stalls. Another whistle blew and the process began all over again.
The cows seemed to enjoy the milking process as much as we enjoyed watching it. After all, they are pros, producing approximately 70,500 gallons of milk a day.
“I enjoyed watching the process of the cows coming into the building to get milked,” Teena said. “They all have their routine and they know exactly what is expected of them and they do it without complaint, unlike my children!”
Sydney also enjoyed the milking process, saying, “Watching the cows come into the milking parlor and how they were just so used to being milked that they knew exactly what to do… it made me laugh! I loved the whole experience really.”
Another fascinating part of the tour was the “kitchen,” or the giant feedlot. Different types of hay, corn, and silages were separated into large stalls and piles. Bulldozers with weight-sensitive buckets then scooped up and weighed the different feeds before dumping them into a bin to be mixed together. We were told that the drivers of the bulldozers are graded on their ability to weigh the food accurately.
Everything we saw at Bateman Mosida Farms emphasized the importance of properly caring for dairy cows. Yes, they are the livelihood of the company, but they are also living animals with feelings and needs too.
“I have toured other dairies,” Yvonne said, “but the cows at Bateman’s were more personable than any other cows I’ve met. They take great care of their cows and it shows in the happy and contented way in which they act.”
So next time you are scarfing down your cornflakes and milk, take a minute to pause and think of the cows that made it possible!
By Amanda Black
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