For Mt. Crawford Creamery employees, work days start around 4:00 a.m. Kenny and Frank Will and Adam Owens are the employees responsible for feeding and milking the cows at 4 a.m. and 4p.m. Milking is usually done on Monday, Wednesday and Friday on a weekly basis at Mt. Crawford Creamery, and there are anywhere from 65 to 90 cows milked depending on the season. It takes a few hours to prepare, milk and clean the cows.
The dairy barn consists of 12 milking stations, with six stations on each side. There are six cows milked at a time. The cows are first herded into their stations where they face towards the walls in order to keep them calm during the milking process. The cow’s utters are cleaned thoroughly and wiped down by employees with an iodine based soap before machine milkers are attached. Once the cows are milked, the utters are cleaned with a glycerin dip to help keep the skin soft and to prevent bacteria from growing. The dairy barn is then hosed down and sanitized for the next milking process in the afternoon.
During the milking process, milk is dispersed directly into transparent glass milk containers. The containers are clear so that the employees can keep an eye on the color of milk. If a cow is sick, the milk in that specific container will be discolored. That discolored milk can then be immediately dumped so that it doesn’t contaminate the milk being given from other cows.
The average lifespan of a dairy cow is around 20 years. At Mt. Crawford the heifers are bred at two years old to have around four calves each. Cows are then able to give milk once they are bred for an average of six years. Kenny Wills said that there are four cows still on the farm producing milk that are pushing 10 years old, but that is unusual for most dairy cows. Keeping a cow healthy and bred are the two key factors for the longevity of giving milk, along with providing a high quality feed and a lifestyle with minimum stress. There are currently 89 cows that are producing milk.
The cows at Mt. Crawford Creamery are fed differently depending on their age. The older cows have access to 40 acres of grass pastures on a daily basis, while the younger cows are fed twice a day. The older cows do not have access to a water source on the pasture anymore so there is water placed in the barns around 1:30 p.m. everyday.
The creamery is currently using what is known as a total mix ration for its calves and teenage cows, which is a feed mixture of corn silage and barley hay. Other times it uses a chopped mixture, which combines corn silage and barely hay with high-moisture corn and a protein from the Rockingham Mill. Calves drink milk until they are around 90 to 120 days old and are fed a “calf starter feed” and then a “calf grower feed” once they are a couple weeks old.
The creamery grows all of the feed on the farm, and will sometimes have extra corn to sell depending on the amount of rainfall that year. Mt. Crawford Creamery supplies about 75 pounds of feed each day for its cows and 27,375 pounds in a year. The cost of supplying feed to the cows averages out to around $1.25 per day.