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Milking it for all it's worth

Visitors to Ag Expo are learning that on a modern, high-tech dairy farm, it takes more than a bucket, a stool and a strong pair

Visitors to Ag Expo are learning that on a modern, high-tech dairy farm, it takes more than a bucket, a stool and a strong pair

August 04, 2002|by KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

kimy@herald-mail.com

Forget about the old bucket and stool; these days cow milking is a high-tech business that uses sophisticated equipment that extracts and screens the liquid - all in less than 15 minutes.

At the Washington County Ag Expo milking parlor, a crowd gathers twice a day to watch farmhands attach a metal "milker" to each animal. The device uses a pulsating vacuum action to extract the milk, which flows through a filter to a holding tank.

Each of the cows being boarded at the fair off Sharpsburg Pike is milked as part of its daily routine while being shown at the event. The milk is sold to the Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association, and the proceeds are divvied up among the cows' owners, said Lance Long of the Long DeLite Farm in Williamsport.

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Long, 22, herded his family's reluctant 2-year-old Holstein, Zircon, to the milking parlor for her Saturday evening milking around 6 p.m.

Inside the trailer-sized milking parlor, the cows are brought to a small stall enclosed with metal bars. A farmhand standing in a pit underneath the stall takes charge of the milking, first expelling a test stream to check if the animal's milk is clear, drying it and then sanitizing each teat with reddish solution.

If the milk test is clear, the farmhand secures the "milkers" attachments to each teat and extracts the milk. Another person standing in the pit keeps track of how much milk each cow is producing, Long said.

After the animal is milked, a sanitizing solution is rubbed on its udder to keep bacteria at bay, he said.

Some cows are hesitant because they may be unused to the Ag Fair's milking machine, said Long, who placated his high-strung Holstein with a bowl full of cracked corn, molasses, barley and soy meal.

"Now she's content," Long said

Cows don't like the hot weather and have a hard time cooling themselves off, he said.

"They get so hot they don't want to do anything. They don't want to eat, they don't want to be milked," he said.

His family's cows are also intuitive, Long said.

"If someone is burning trash nearby and they smell the smoke, they'll leave the area," Long said.

The Long DeLite farm, established in 1831, has about 50 cows of various breeds that require milking twice a day so efficiency is essential, Long said.

If a cow isn't milked regularly it will become uncomfortable and walk funny, he said. The farm will also lose money because the animals will leak, he said.

A cow's milk production is measured in pounds instead of gallons. An average daily gross can range from 50 to 60 pounds, Long said.

The extracted milk is sold and the buyer will pasteurize it and use it to produce cream, butter and various types of milk, he said.

The Long DeLite Farm, owned by Galen Long, sits on 163 acres and includes hogs, chickens and crops used to fed the animals, Long said.

A steady milk producer can expect a long life at the Long DeLite Farm, he said.

"My dad says he'll keep them on as long as they earn their keep," Long said.

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