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Taking some of the labor out of milking cows | Select

OSMOND — Walt Aschoff wonders now if his wife, Michele, really knew what she was agreeing to when their son, Robert, asked her if he could buy a couple of cows.

Those cows would have to be milked twice a day, 365 days a year.

In years past, dairy farms were known to need a lot of work. Milking was done twice a day, every day, seven days a week, sometimes by hand, sometimes with a milking machine, but it was all hands on.

The farmer had to be there all the time. Then there’s the gathering of the cows, feeding, cleaning up manure, putting the animals to pasture or a feed area, checking water sources, keeping up fences, cutting silage for winter months, grinding feed to feed the cows while milking and dealing with weather extremes.

“The labor does not go away. It is just scheduled differently,” Aschoff said. “You’re not married to it like in the past. The world doesn’t turn that way anymore.”

Typically, the herdsman will spend a lot of time in the office checking computer information about the cows, milk production or issues that need to be addressed with health. All the cows lay on mattresses or water beds and they have to bedded with wood chips daily by a different robot that shoots the wood chips out, as well as cleaned off manually twice a day.

There may be one with a sore foot or in heat. Someone usually is in the barn from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and then Aschoff and kids take over for a couple of hours, checking the operation and cows.

But what if something goes wrong?

“The barn runs on its own a lot of the time, but don’t worry, the robots notify us when something’s wrong,” Aschoff said with a laugh. “And they call us a lot.”

Another interesting activity at 4 Aces Dairy is a viewing room in the middle of the building under the porch, which is always open to the public. There are viewing windows to see the milking robots and the feeding system.

A couple of older men come many days and sit and watch the milking. Tours can be arranged for school children and others.

Aschoff said someday when he’s ready to retire, he might ditch his construction gig and take care of the cows.

“It’s enjoyable in the barn, very peaceful,” Aschoff said. “And the cows never talk back.”

Read More: Taking some of the labor out of milking cows | Select

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