June is dairy month and a tradition here in Wisconsin is the June Dairy Breakfast. Each year, most counties, pick a farm to host this event. This year in Marathon County, it was at the Northcentral Technical Agriculture Center of Excellence. This agriculture campus is located about 3 or 4 miles north of the main Northcentral Technical Institute. The "tech" as we call it is celebrating their centennial year (1912-2012).
This agriculture center is a working dairy farm. The students meet at this facility for classes. They have the cow barn (for the working girls) the heifer barn (young ladies waiting to start working) and a calf area.
This facility has an automated milking machine. What happens is, each cow is given a collar. This collar has a computer chip inside. This chip contains all the information about this cow - it reads about 100 things and keeps track of them. From grain rations, body and milk temperature and production. They milk 24 hours - around the clock each day.
The cows are housed in a freestall barn. Each cow is trained to come into the gate and walk thru this turn style pen. When they enter the milking platform the computer will read their collar, automatically drop that cows feed and start milking. The only way I can think to describe this is like a car wash. While the cow is eating, this machine comes up under the utter, washes each teat, a laser scans each and the cup comes up on each one and starts milking. When it is done, the machine sprays down her utter, gives her a little shock to get her moving and she walks out the other turn gate. Then the next one goes through. Each cow will do this several times a day - if it is not her time to be milked again, the collar will be read and she will not be given her ration of feed and walk out. It was neat to see. While we were there - some cows were "repeat offenders" and went through the gate several times to try and get more grain. The gate just pushed them back through. One huge cow #97 went through at least 5 times in a row - smarty pants...
At any June Dairy Breakfast, you will find tents full of information from various business and county offices, petting zoo, free samples of cheese, the breakfast and ice cream. It is a lot of fun.
Wisconsinites are proud of our strong agricultural history and dairy industry.
Blessings from the Dairy State.