I have been an intern at Church Farm for almost half a year now, and one of the reasons why I chose this place is the diversity. You can find a variety of domesticated animals, except dairy cows.
Back home in the Lower Rhine Region of Germany, dairy cows are dominating my life. I adore them since I started to work on a family owned dairy farm. It is a place where tradition and new technologies go hand in hand. Although it is a conventional farm, it is managed sustainably and animal welfare is a priority. Every cow, and there are around 80, has a name, and Eduscho is my favorite. She is 11 years old, which is quite unusual for modern dairy farming. There is so much I could tell you about these cows, but since it is summer, let me tell you how Eduscho is spending hers.
Eduscho‘s optimal outside temperature is about 15°C, so you can imagine that summer isn’t her favorite time of the year, when the temperature can climb over 30°C. During that time Eduscho could become poorly due to the heat stress her body is suffering from. She has the chance to go outside onto the grassland, but when it‘s getting too hot she prefers to stay in the stable.
There she can cool down her body while having a cool shower. Above the eating grid there are little sprinklers that help her to feel more comfortable. On top of that, water nozzles behind huge fans are cooling down the air before it gets sucked in. If Eduscho wants to go outside she has to pass a gate which won’t open if she hasn’t been milked for a while. The responder around her neck is passing on the information to the gate. Then Eduscho will go to the milking robot, where she gets some special cow candy. A robotic arm moves under her udder to clean it with brushes, then a laser appears that tells the robot the location of the four teats, and the arm places the the cups onto the teats so the milking process can start. During that time there is an exchange of information between the robot and the responder.
After the milking Eduscho will be able to pass the gate. The responder gives data about the rumination rate to the robot that also collects data about body temperature and the conductivity of milk. This data helps to analyse her overall health status. Before she leaves the robot she gets a little treatment for her hooves, you could call it a pedicure. Now after milking she might be in the mood for a nice back rub. She just has to push against one of the brushes and it starts to spin automatically.
Then she will head straight outside to eat the fresh grass. Standing next to Eduscho on the grassland you would observe that the agricultural land is surrounded by conservation stripes that offer habitat for wild animals. In the old barns where the calves are being raised, you can have a look at the busy swallows feeding their offspring. And as Eduscho is enjoying the twilight with its dropping temperature, you might be lucky and see the barn owls leaving their nest boxes under the gable of the barn.