Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Business End of Cows

Spend any time in the Green Mountain state and you're going to see cows. Driving along the road? Cows on both sides. Under a tree in the middle of a windswept field? A cow. Providing much-needed methane for electrical power generation? Cows. Staring at you with big wet eyes from their pens in a dairy barn?

They're good at staring, these cows, and they should be, After all, they're Jersey cows, and if any animal is going to give you a what-for look, it will be a Jersey cow.

We were at the Billings Farm Museum outside of Woodstock, Vermont in early January. "We" being Michele and Dana, and their two daughters, Katrina and Marissa. Sherry stayed back on the mountain, dealing with her crisis du jour in New York.

Marissa learns where pie comes from.

Billings is a working dairy farm, as well as a museum and educational center. The returns from the milk they sell helps subsidize the day-to-day running of the property. We toured the dairy barn right around the afternoon milking time, the preparation for which is shown in the above photo.

The man in the center is rolling a cart with all the suction apparatus and hoses that attach to the udders. The hoses will lead up to a stainless steel pipe running above the stalls, then the raw milk is gravity fed through the pipe to a collection room at the far end of the barn. Milking is done twice a day, every twelve hours.

Visitors are advised to stay in the center of the corridor, as the trough running along the length of the barn in front of the stalls is a gravity-fed collector for cow products that are not milk.

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