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24 hours in Lawrence

Down on the dairy farm

May 22, 2007

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Eugene George prepares to milk his 140 Holstein dairy cows at 4 a.m. on his farm near Baldwin City. He will milk them again in the afternoon.

Eugene George prepares to milk his 140 Holstein dairy cows at 4 a.m. on his farm near Baldwin City. He will milk them again in the afternoon.

It's too early to call it "bright and early." In fact, when Eugene George wakes, just a little before 4 a.m., it's dark, and this morning heavy fog sets over his dairy farm.

Like his 140 Holstein dairy cows, George is a creature of habit. Together, George and his cows start their morning with breakfast; the cows eat a grain mixture and George, chocolate milk.

"No problem there, I drink chocolate milk every day." George says. "And we buy it in the store. Can you believe that?"

When work begins, George corrals the heifers, some with names such as Agnes, Minerva, Price and Meg, into a lot where they await their turn to be milked. At a neighboring barn, George directs 12 cows at a time, six on each side, into stalls. In the blink of an eye, George sweeps up and down the line, washing each udder, then attaching a sucking, mechanical milking device.

"I couldn't milk a cow by hand if I tried," George said.

Clear canisters fill with white milk and eventually, another 12 cows come into the barn for milking. The entire process of milking the herd lasts for two hours, with each heifer donating nine gallons of milk to a giant steel vat in the barn. George will milk his herd again at 4 p.m.

Comments

primatech 7 years, 7 months ago

..."George sweeps up and down the line, washing each utter, then attaching a sucking, mechanical milking device."

utter: an act of producing voice through the use of the vocal folds and vocal apparatus to create a linguistic act designed to convey information.

udder: the mammary organ of cattle and some other mammals, including goats and sheep.

I love it when city slickers go to the country.

lmpaul 7 years, 7 months ago

"George corrals the heifers, where they await their turn to be milked."

Dairy Farming 101: Female cattle are HEIFERS until they have a calf. Heifers do NOT produce milk. After they give birth, they produce milk and are called COWS. After the calf is weaned (or fed a milk substitute) cows will continue to produce milk as long as they are milked everyday like George is doing. When George wants the cow to have another calf, he stops milking her. Then she comes in heat, gets bred, has a baby and, again, produces milk. Next week we will discuss the difference between steers and bulls.

aukje59 7 years, 7 months ago

Re: Impaul comment. Cows come into heat all by themselves after they have calved, it could be less than 2 months after giving birth. Most farmers wait until at least 2 months to breed a cow after she has had a calf. Too soon and the cow and future calf are at risk. She can continue to give milk for about 8 months after being bred. The farmer lets the cow rest after her milk production drops about 2 months before the next calf is born. A cow in heat is an aggressive animal and if she is not bred in that period she will cycle again and come into heat again until she has finally been bred. Nature has ensured that cattle will reproduce all by themselves, the farmer isn't doing anything special other than providing a sire for an animal that is determined to be a mother.

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