Cows are wonderful, gentle creatures, hard working and incredibly loyal.
They are by nature a passive herd animal who like a daily routine, and plenty to eat! They are very efficient food converters – food in, milk out and a special free by-product at the end!! And she has four stomachs not one!! But each cow is an individual within the herd…some are dominant, some are extroverts and a few are shy.
Their character will affect their daily routine. For example, the herd will usually have a lead cow who will always be in front and will lead the herd out to grass. They enter the parlour in almost the same order every day with a herd pecking order. In fact if a cow is late into the parlour it is a good indicator that she is either off-colour or bulling.
Each cow is uniquely marked and no two cows are ever the same black and white pattern on their coats. Look closely and you will see a different facial expression for each cow. And wouldn’t you love long black fluttering eyelashes too?!!
The Milking Parlour
The cows at DairyLand are milked daily. Each cow has its individual character, and they enter the parlour in almost the same ‘pecking’ order every day. As milking begins, a safe electric fence, called K9 (the electric dog), is automatically lowered behind the cows, encouraging them to enter the parlour (the cows only feel a slight tickle from K9!!). In the entry race a semaphore action gate opens, allowing the cow to step onto the rotating platform at the right time. If the cow is hesitant or becomes trapped an emergency baffle plate stops the turn table immediately. The cowman has a panic button should he need to stop the parlour and a television screen showing the outside yards, warning him of any problems.
Cows in the Orbiter
The cow enters and looking for food she pushes her head in the manger, automatically locking the neck-yoke. The first feeder delivers a set amount of concentrates into the manger. Feeder No.2 delivers an extra feed for higher yielding cows. As the cow begins to feed her udder is washed/dry wiped by the cowman. Foremilk may be taken to check the health of the udder. This routine may change depending on the time of year. The teat cups are put on the teats by hand, the action of the machine copies the natural sucking of the calf and the cow is happy to let down her milk. Occasionally a kicking cow may need restraining with a kickbar or a rope tied around her belly. The milk is drawn by vacuum along a rubber pipe to the recorder jars. You can see it filling up the jars as the cow milks. As soon as the milk flow slows down, the vacuum is automatically turned off and the cluster removed by an ACR (Automatic Cluster Remover). These reduce the risk of over-milking which is uncomfortable for a cow. This is why cows sometimes kick off the clusters at the end of milking.
After milking, the cows teats are treated/dipped with a disinfectant to kill bacteria and prevent the spread of mastitis. The cowman may use an udder cream if the teats are sore or dry, particularly in the winter. The milk jar is automatically emptied and the milk drawn by vacuum across the parlour in stainless steel pipes into two receiver jars in the centre of the parlour. It is then pumped into the enormous bulk tank where it is cooled immediately from 32.2oC (cows body temp.) to about 3.3*C. The milk tanker collects the milk each day. When the cow reaches the exit, her neck yoke is released and she is free to leave. A diversion gate, controlled by the cowman can divert the cow into the hospital yard if she needs treatment or is to be served. If not, she joins the other cows. The cows in the dispersal yard wait patiently for milking to finish. They love to use the rotary groomer and queue up to use it! After milking the whole plant is cleaned by a system rather like a household dishwasher. A heat recovery unit provides free hot water at 62*C for udder washing. The whole process of milking and cleaning through is repeated, twice a day, 365 days a year, even on Christmas Day. So, give the cowman a thought when you next eat your Christmas lunch!!!