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Farmetters visit a real farm

It's chilly on the farmette this morning. Single digit - 9C. Definitely autumn in the air.

A couple of weeks ago, Rob and I took the opportunity to visit an open house at my friend and colleague Courtney Denard's dairy farm.

She, her husband Rob and his parents run Valleykirk Farms and they've just done a massive construction job which automated nearly everything about the operation.

They've installed a robotic milker, a feeder and even a mechanized scraper to clean up the manure. It's a sight to behold. My uncle Ralph, who had a mixed farm way back in the day, would have been impressed.

The most amazing thing about the entire adventure was that, on the day after Rob moved the cattle into the new barn last fall, Courtney went into labour and produced their wee girl Bree. Talk about timing. Renewed business, new baby, new life.

Here's a shot of the milker. The girls just mosey into the machine when they feel like they need to. Sensors check whether they actually need to be relieved, and if so, the process begins. A cleaner comes out to make sure everything is sanitized, the milker attaches itself and the milk gets uploaded into pipes which are connected to a bulk tank in another room.

While she's contentedly chewing her cud and getting milked, all kinds of data is recorded including the status of her health how much of the white stuff she's giving. Amazing.

They even have some creature comforts for their (mostly) holsteins. Robotic back scratchers were installed in a couple of places so the girls can get a massage when they want it.

Rob and Courtney are great farmers. They take care of their animals and treat them very well. The cows have free range through the barn, which is well-ventilated. They have comfy beds of sand for when they need a lie-down. The day we were there, it was pretty hot, so the fans were going full tilt and the barn was opened on both sides to let the breezes blow through.

For the open house, they even had signs throughout the barn explaining the size of the farm and their operating processes. Cool, eh? More and more farmers are getting into the open house thing so that we, who have grown away from our farming roots, can get a glimpse of what it takes to bring food to our tables.

Courtney's also a farm reporter who's currently on maternity leave from the Ontario Farmer. Another couple of fellow freelancers had made the trek to the farm and happened to be there when I arrived, so we had to get a group shot of the aggie journalists.

Left to right, here's Suzanne Atkinson, moi, Courtney (love the shorts) and Karen Dallimore. All four of us work from home, so it was great to have a wee reunion.

All in all, it was a great day trip just a half-hour away from the farmette that was filled with lots of learning and laughs. Until next week.

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