Your chance to see a robot milk a cow

Said Merri to her husband, Bill, as they were milking cows:  “So walk me through the day you sell these cows”.  His response, “I don’t even want to think about it.”  Don’t women just have a fantastic way of convincing their husbands?

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Bill and Merri, with their daughter, Sarah, who was recently named a 2014 Finalist for Princess Kay of the Milky Way, the official goodwill ambassador for Minnesota’s dairy farms.

Faced with the decision to change their methods or quit, Bill and Merri Post opted to update their farm.  You have the unique opportunity to watch a cow milk at robot at their farm, Middleroad Acres, on Friday June 6, 3-8 p.m.  Address is 392 61st Street, Chandler, MN.

What?  A cow milk a robot?  This is really a new wave of technology to dairies.  Here is some of the logic behind it:

1.  Cows decide how often they would like to be milked.  A cow that gave birth 2 months ago is going to milk a bunch — she will go to the robot to be milked up to 6 times a day.  Milking out that often is great for her, but really not feasible if a farm doesn’t have robots.  On the flip-side, a cow that gave birth 12 months ago may only prefer to be milked twice a day.  It allows the cow to choose.  However, dairy farmers still monitor each cow every day to make sure she is getting milked appropriately.  So, if a cow hasn’t decided to be milked in the last 12 hours (unless she is getting close to two months before her due date), Bill or Merri need to direct her that it is time.  On their dairy with 120 milking cows, that would average about 10 cows each morning and night.

2.  It helps farmers to be flexible.  Bill and Merri were able to attend their son’s playoff basketball game last winter that was scheduled for 5 p.m.   That would be nearly impossible for a dairy farmer in the past who has 50-100 cows and thus, very little hired labor.  For a typical dairy that size, cows get milked every 12 hours, often starting at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m.

3.  It eases physical strain to farmers.  If you have ever seen a 70-year-old man walking with obvious knee pain, you know he is/was a dairy farmer and you completely get it.  Milking cows in a tie-stall barn is so physically repetitive and knees don’t appreciate all the bending 365 days a year.  This isn’t to say that robotic milkers eliminate work, it just changes to other forms.  The robot must be serviced daily.  Cows still need physical observation with a keen eye, and as mentioned before, some need convincing it is time for them to take a turn.  There’ s still plenty of chores, they just aren’t quite so taxing to a body.

4.  There’s just way more information.  Each time a cow enters the robot, she is weighed.  (It makes me think a bit of the doctor’s office while pregnant!)  It also measures how many pounds of milk she gives, the temperature of her milk, and the conductivity of her milk — all great clues as to the health of a cow.  This allows Bill and Merri to recognize a sick cow much more quickly.  They also have tags specifically designed to measure activity and rumination (when a cow brings up food she has already swallowed to chew it again).

5.  Nutritional needs of the cows can be tailored for each individual one.  A cow will receive a “treat” each time they enter the robot.  The treat is a supplement to the feed that is available to all of them 24/7.  However, because the robot recognizes each unique cow, it doles out a treat that is specifically calculated by the farmers and their nutritionist to meet her needs for milk production, pregnancy, and just maintenance.  We farmers spend a ton of time worrying that a cow milking a lot is going to get too skinny, and even more time worrying a cow getting too far into her lactation will get too fat to be healthy for her next calf delivery.  So giving them a “treat” or a “supplement” each time they enter is a super neat feature.

How about even an automatic calf feeder that measures and mixes milk powder when a calf decides it is lunch time?  The Post family converted their old dairy barn to house young calves, and chose to implement this system as well.  It helps calves to drink smaller amounts of milk more often, which is really ideal for their young, growing bodies.

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You will be able to see these things and so much more next week!!  It will totally be worth the drive (well maybe not if you are an out-of-state reader, but if so, please let me know that you are interested and I’ll try to locate a farm with robots for you to visit).   There will be a short program at 4 p.m. if you want, but various learning stations for kids and adults will be there the whole 5 hours.  They are also serving food (need I say more?) and soft-serve ice cream.  If you want to make a day out of it, there are some other options that my mother-in-law (read more about her here) and 7 of her grandkids just took advantage of yesterday, like the Pipestone Monument and Edgerton bakery.

Did you notice the image with Bessie the cow wearing a party hat?  It is nearly June Dairy Month, the barn doors are open, and dairy farmers are so excited for you to see their farms and the passion they have for providing you with nutritious, delicious milk!   It is certainly time to celebrate.

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A 30-year commitment

If you ask a farmer for the first thing that comes to mind when you say “thirty year commitment”, they would say a long-term real estate note from the bank.  We would probably just commonly call it “30 year money”.  However, my in-laws have just completed a whole different kind of agreement.

Last night, they finished 30 years as parents to a child at Worthington Christian School.  (Now, that’s a lot of pans of bars!)   Here’s how it all started:

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Enjoying some cake and punch after graduation last night, is my mother-in-law, deb, and her oldest daughter, Anna. Photo bomb by Beth Prins.

 

Joe’s oldest sister, Anna, started kindergarten 30 years ago.  The ‘school’ was in a different building then, and numerous other things have changed, but never their commitment.  Joe was two years later, and then there was a 4 year gap.  Next came Joe’s two younger sisters, Tae and Kia.

Along the way, God worked another kid into their lives, Sarah.  She is shown in the photo I have from last night, second from right.  She was being honored for her service in the past year to our preschool, Hi-Ho.

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Outgoing staff from the school: Mrs. Eekhoff, Miss Hiemstra, and Miss Sarah. Recognizing them is Danni Weg.

Before Sarah was finished, her little brother O.D. was ready to begin.  Last night, he proudly walked across the stage.

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Graduation at Worthington Christian School.

Do my in-laws get a break now?  Yes and no.  Their days of helping little ones to memorize Bible verses and that sort of thing are done.  However, out of the approximately 70 kids enrolled at WCS, 5 of them are their grandkids.  It looks as if they will add 7 more grandkids to the mix in the next 6 years.  My ears ring just thinking of all those years of listening to 4th graders play recorders at the spring music concert.

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My mother-in-law, deb, with my 3-year-old, Ava. Photo taken in an apple orchard earlier this week.

 

Diversity in Worthington

Worthington, Minnesota, is quite unique.  It is a melting pot of different cultures, due in large part to a pork processing plant in town.  For a population of about 15,000, we’ve got tons of diversity.  Well over half of the kids in school know Spanish better than English. Yet it doesn’t stop there:  Worthington is home to many Asian, Karen, Native American, and Sudanese (and I’ve probably missed a ton of others).  Our public school estimates that there are 28 different languages spoken by it’s students.

Now, while the language barrier can be super frustrating, if one looks beyond that, living here is really pretty neat.

Just a few things that quickly come to mind.

1.  On a beautiful day, tons of kids are playing outside.  I venture to say that it is way more than in a typical town.

2.  I’ve often see the community pull together in really neat ways to help someone who is new and has nothing.

3.   You don’t need to travel to do mission work as a Christian.  The need is right here.

And there there was last week…

Our family was invited to a First Communion party, as part of a girl’s public profession of faith.  We were pretty unsure of what to expect, but for my kids I offered up the usual pep-talk (say please, wait your turn, you have to eat at least some of your food) before we arrived.  As we stepped inside, we were greeted with some extra lively music and a very warm welcome by the host.  He showed us to a table, and as we noticed every one else was eating, we asked if we should go get so food first.  No, of course not, he would bring us the food.  The kids were given hot-dogs (so much for having to warn them to at least try their food), and we received a plate of food that included at least 14 servings of beans.  As soon as we finished our food, the real fun was about to begin.

It was time for the pinata.  Now, I’ve never been to a party with a real, swing-a-broomstick-at-it pinata.  Somebody brought out a rope, and before I could even locate my camera, the pinata was suspended over a light fixture on the ceiling with a rope.  All the kids came running!

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Time for some pinata fun!

 

The arms didn’t last very long!  Ava got a turn to whack at it.  For the most part, the kids took a turn youngest to oldest.

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My 3-year-old hitting the pinata.

 

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Liv wasn’t responsible for the displaced arm.

The guy standing on stage had the other end of the rope, so as the kids got bigger and stronger, he would pull it up and away from them at the last second.  Liv doesn’t look too dangerous.

 

Of course, the guest of honor had to take a few tries at it!

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Hitting a pinata wearing a veil!

 

Finally, a boy that was 11 or 12 got a good swing at it and candy and children went flying everywhere.

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Dive for the candy!

 

All told, we had a blast at the party.  I can easily believe our kids will be talking about it for a long time.  (It will definitely be a let-down this weekend when we attend graduation parties, eating ham buns and looking at photos of graduates and the awards they’ve earned.)

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Worthington, MN on a Saturday afternoon

They certainly will have a ton of experiences in their childhood that I didn’t growing up in a small town in central Minnesota.  As a mom, I’ve found myself spending a lot of time thinking about this issue in past few days, and what I can do to make the make of the opportunities it provides to us.  The topic quickly popped back into my head as I was driving through town following my daughter’s dance recital (an activity that attracts very few pinata-whacking experts).  Isn’t this just a neat photo?  The cart is pulled by a bicycle.  The orange food in the bags hanging from the back is something akin to salty edible styro-foam.  I certainly don’t care for it, but perhaps it goes well with beans?

How do they do that? — Video of Planting Corn

One of my least favorite features of WordPress is that one must upgrade (and of course, pay a fee) to be able to post video. I think that video-blogging is such a neat way to showcase agriculture that I really ought to create a YouTube channel. For now, though, I have another means: doing a bit of free-lance blogging for AgStar. I was just featured on their “Edge”, which is their educational component, and something in which I am proud to be included.

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It’s all about how we plant our corn. I was really pleased with how it turned out. Check it out here. http://agstar.com/edge/Pages/BlogArticleDetails.aspx?BlogArticleId=274&aid=21

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While there, you can scroll down and check out some of the other blogger’s content. Enjoy!