Friday, August 21, 2015

Bonding with cows: an afternoon at Meadowood Farms.

As you may recall, last summer I milked a cow for the first time. This summer, I figured it was time to bottle-feed a bunch of calves.

At the beginning of July, Melissa and I spent an afternoon at Meadowood Farms in Lodi, Wisconsin, where Melissa conducted her Master's research in finding the best nutrition plan for calves using a robot feeder (more on that later). The family-owned farm belongs to Sandy, Tim, and Greg Enge. The farm is home to 450 cows, which is considered a medium-sized dairy. 

First of all, the view was great:

Okay, now for the cows. We were greeted by cow #2598, also known as Olive, who Melissa raised as a baby. She is now all grown up and works as a show cow at various fairs.

Olive says hello.
Left to right: Holstein, Brown Swiss, and Jersey show cows.
Olive is a friendly gal.
Taking a selfie with a cow is challenging.
After hanging out with the show cows, I was pretty excited to meet some barn cats:

Mama was a leg climber.

And her baby was a snuggler.
We saw large groups of cows walking to and from their milking area. They are good at following each other in lines.

Then, it was time to head to the calf barn. Calves ages 1-66 days old live in this barn. Calves under a day old have their own area where they get bottle-fed. Prepare for cuteness.

Lounging calves.
Up close and personal. This baby was excited to be fed.
The calves drink from a DeLaval automated feeder, also known as a robot feeder. Calves are trained to use the feeder, then they can walk up to it for milk meals. Each calf wears a collar so that the feeder knows when he or she has had enough to eat, giving them just the right amount of milk. Calves drink anywhere from 1-3 gallons of milk a day.

The feeder!
Supper time.
Then, it was time to bottle feed the 4 calves who were less than 1 day old. 

Melissa (wearing her "Moo Expert" shirt) was very excited to mix up the formula.
We fed the babies! It's much harder than it looks. They were young, wild, and hungry, but didn't know much about using a bottle.

I did alright for a rookie, but I ended up seeking help from the expert.
Then, it was time to head out, but not before I got a quick video of feeding time. The Meadowood cows live in "free stalls," so they can go wherever they want, whenever they want. They're living the good life.

It was a great, moo-worthy day with the cows!