Field Trip to Virginia Dairies

We have guests/friends who are dairy farmers (Valter and Lida Medeiros) visiting this week from Bermuda and they wanted to see a dairy farm while they are here. We chose Cub Run Dairy owned by Gerald and Anita Heatwole of McGaheysville, VA for our field trip on Saturday.

The new dairy facility is complete with observation decks and conference rooms welcoming people and tour groups to visit.

The Heatwoles along with their son, Monte, milk over 600 cows and in the past several years have done extensive upgrades to their operation. It was a fascinating and amazing experience. I am a farm girl; raised on a dairy farm and married a dairy farmer. I know all about milking and feeding cows, bottle feeding baby calves, scraping the barnyard, computer monitoring and all the other too many to name chores on a farm. And yet I was absolutely stunned, fascinated and amazed at the advances in technology and the vast management requirements for such a large dairy. The most Gene ever milked was about 100 cows in a double four herringbone parlor which was “modern” in our time.  We went out of the dairy business in the mid-nineties.

Just a few pictures from our day.

A double-24 which means they milk 48 at a time. If I remember correctly, Gerald said it takes three persons about 1-1/2 hours. They milk three times a day.

This is the backside of the previous picture.

A neat view underneath the cows being milked. The cows and facilities were very clean.

Milking meters record the amount of milk each cow gives and the information is sent to an onsite computer.

Each cow wears a pedometer that records their steps. Increased activity signifies the cow is in heat and sends the information to a computer which alerts them that she is ready to be bred. Decreased activity can mean a cow is sick or injured.

Feeding time.

Cows have access to pastures when the weather permits. The cows were very contented, chewing their cud and enjoying the warm sunshine, all within view of the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains.

We were especially pleased to see they feed Purina Milk Replacer!

Combine coming in from harvesting soybeans.

The Heatwoles have several turkey houses. Looked like good Thanksgiving meat to me!

The Heatwoles live across the road from the dairy in a gorgeous home they have remodeled.

Anita took us down the road about three miles to the second largest dairy in Virginia, Stoney Run Farm. They milk 2400 cows on a carousel, stopping only long enough each day to clean and disinfect the facility. Incredible. Here again the dairy was very clean and the cows were very contented.

The cows get on this ride without being forced. In fact, they were standing in line, on their own, and as soon as a cow got off, the next one was ready, anxious and pushing to get on.  Very few cows dropped manure on the ride which was amazing to us. Those of us who know cows, know how often they drop their piles of manure!! They just chewed their cud, looked around and smiled as they enjoyed the ride.

The technology used in farming is amazing and the management skills and capital needed, staggering.  Most people have no idea what it takes for food to get from the farm to the table. If you ever get a chance to visit a farm, do so. I suspect it will increase your admiration for our hardworking men and women who love their animals and occupation with a passion. The Heatwoles’ are a true working farm with three generations; grandparents, parents and grandkids all working together and loving it.

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