On a cold Saturday morning, several veterinary technology students set out for the Berg Dairy Farm in Barre Mills, excited to watch robotic milking firsthand and assist with various duties.
The first, and one of the favorite activities, was feeding calves.
“We started by bottle feeding calves, then moved on to robotic milking,” Shania Webb, veterinary technology student, said. “We helped to singe the hair on the udders of the cows. It helps with cleanliness of the whole system.”
Students also trimmed the cows’ tails, de-horned calves and cleaned out pens, but the focus of the day was on robotic milking.
“Robotic milking is helpful for farmers because it tests the milk every time. Studies have shown that it helps increase milk production and gives the farmer a little more time to do other chores. It also checks the cow’s weight and food intake, among other things,” Shania said.
“This form of milking keeps track of everything for the farmers, such as how the cow is processing food and the amount of milk they are letting down,” Sacha Hansen, veterinary technology student, said.
The students noted the importance of being familiar with techniques like robotic milking for their future careers.
“For us vet techs, this experience was beneficial because we may run into a robotic milker while in the field,” Shania said. “It’s important to know what they do and the information they collect.”
Robotic milking is not used on all dairy farms, but is bound to be used more frequently.
“I remember when [robotic milking] was starting to be talked about, so seeing it in person was awesome,” Sacha said.
Justine Hickey, another vet tech student volunteer, agreed. “It was cool to learn about how the farming industry is growing and using more technology.”
Fellow student Taylor Hoekstra also appreciated the opportunity to volunteer at the Berg farm. “Learning about robotic milking was helpful because it was a new and interesting thing to learn about and was very neat to watch,” she said. “The best part was being around all the animals and taking care of them.”
Though farming is difficult and dirty work, all of the students enjoyed helping out and gaining experience.
“The best part for me was just being on a farm and helping out. I was able to get my hands in there and get dirty,” Sacha said. “The worst part was having to leave. I wish we could have stayed and done more.”