Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Robotic Milking of the Dairy Herd

The most remarkable thing about the farm where the Canadian Foodgrains Bank celebration was held was the robotic milking machine for the dairy herd.  I had heard of this in the area, but had never seen it in action.

There were lots of cows around that you could say hello to.  Notice the tag hanging around her neck.  All of these cows are electronically linked to computer records of what they eat and the milk they produce, so every cow is tracked individually, standard practice on dairy farms these days.

This farm has a moderate sized herd, about 60 cows, all Holsteins.

These two were in the milking parlour, waiting their turn for milking.

And this is the magic, very expensive machine, developed in the Netherlands.  Cows enter it at the right hand side, when the gate swings open after the last cow leaves.  They get a little treat for encouragement (obviously an important part of getting the cow to enter the machine regularly), and the computer sensor records which cow it is, when it was last milked, and so on.  When it's finished the gate on the left side opens and the cow leaves, opening the right hand gate for the next cow.  The machine does everything; the cow just walks through.

This is the machine from the other side, where you can't see much to be honest.  But the vertical stainless steel pipe in the middle is the working part of the machine, now extended under the cow, with the milking cups attached to the teats.  This machine is capable of sensing precisely where each teat is, washing them, and then attaching, and later removing the milking cups.  While this is going on the computer screen shows the data being recorded, including milk production, average production, number of times milked today, and so on.  This machine can handle a herd of about 60, given each cow coming through 2-3 times per day.

There are disadvantages to this system, especially the cost, but the savings in labour, the increase in comfort for the cows, and the improved monitoring of individual cows are all big advantages.  The farmer doesn't even have to be in the barn; the machine will call you if there's a problem.  The cows (in most setups) can enter whenever they wish, so the number of times they're milked usually goes up a little, leaving them more comfortable.  And the detailed records of each cow means that you can tell immediately if a particular cow is not producing as she usually does, usually a sign of a problem worth checking.  The health of the herd can be improved as a result.

I was really impressed with how well this works, and particularly interested in the benefits for the cows themselves.  Farming keeps changing!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Canadian Foodgrains Bank

A couple of weeks ago we went to the annual celebration for the local group that supports the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, held on a big dairy farm a few miles away.  There was a great collections of antique (or at least older) tractors, and demonstrations of a robotic milking system.

There is a local chapter of this national organization, which raises money which in turn is used to purchase grain in countries where hunger is rampant.  Grain purchased is then distributed to local families who need it, along with other programs to alleviate hunger.

Driving around every now and then I see crop fields with a sign indicating that this field is for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.  They don't actually send the grain from that field overseas; it is sold here, and the funds are used to purchase grain in countries facing hunger.  I was interested in this simple display of the common grains they deal with.

Lots was happening, including music, food and a silent auction.  But it's also become a tradition for tractor aficianados to bring their classic machines to put on display.

I'm sure many owners spend hours and hours fixing these up and making sure they still work.  And there were several models that you would never see today.

Like this orange Minneapolis Moline tractor - have any of you ever seen one of these out working?

This ancient John Deere was probably the oldest one there, the only one with steel wheels, those the rear wheels have rubber treads over the steel.

 There was also a portable sawmill that I found quite interesting, run off the three-point-hitch of the tractor.

In any case I enjoyed seeing these old machines.  As usual the bright-coloured ones appealed to me for pictures the most.  I'm just a Magpie!  Tomorrow the robotic milking machine.

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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Water Droplets

After a heavy rain I sometimes head for the garden to try and get pictures of water droplets.  These are a few of my attempts from two weeks ago.

Some plants hold the water droplets much better than other plants.  In fact in many cases you can't find noticeable droplets.  Day Lily leaves and those of similar plants seem to be the best - and we have quite a few Day Lilies.

Day Lily blossoms don't do too badly at holding water droplets either.

And here's an individual water drop, dripping off the petal of a Helenium blossom.  Busy day today after church, doing yard work, while my wife made peach jam, canned peaches, and peach syrup!  We're all done in.

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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Gulls and Grouse

We frequently see Gulls sitting spread out across farm fields, in large widely spaced flocks.  We rarely see, though we regularly hear, Ruffed Grouse.

I saw this large flock of Gulls on a harvested hayfield, just yesterday.  As I drove up and poked the camera out the window they were almost all sitting.  I keep wanting to call them 'Seagulls', but that's only a colloquial name; these were either Ring-billed or Herring Gulls, more likely the former according to eBird records for Grey County, but they were too far to tell without binoculars.

This was quite a large flock.  They didn't look as if they were feeding, just resting.  Sometimes we see them spread out down a field behind a farmer ploughing, presumably eating the turned up worms.

I was able to get a couple of pictures out the window, and then from behind the car, but once I stopped out in the open, the ones close to me rose and flew in a big circle to land further away.  Have you ever wondered how a large flock of birds coordinates their flying to move as a group so gracefully?  They're perhaps our most common bird around here in terms of numbers.

The Ruffed Grouse is another story.  We rarely see them except as an exploding shadow when you surprise one walking through the woods.  We do hear the drumming males in the spring.  But this one just sat there while we stopped 10 feet away and didn't even ruffle its feathers.  I didn't have the camera, but we were almost home, so we went home, I got the camera and returned.

It was still sitting there!  It even let me get out of the car to take a picture and didn't move a muscle.  But I moved one step off the road closer, and it burst into flight straight for the woods - and a milli-second behind it a second bird burst out of the grass at my feet and followed it.  This bird had been guarding the female sitting on the nest.  I left promptly, not to disturb it more.  You can see the crest on top of the head on this bird, the red phase of the Ruffed Grouse.  But its named for the feathers around its neck which can spread out to create quite a 'ruff', though I've never see that.

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Friday, August 28, 2015

Signs of the Seasons

I was shocked this morning to drag myself out of bed just before 7 and discover the sun had not risen!  Then I was even more shocked when a few minutes later it did rise, but far to the south of where I had seen it last time (I'm not very good at seeing sunrises during mid-summer when they occur so early).  It told me loud and clear that fall is on its way!

Not much of a sunrise really, but look at the position of the rising sun!  Well to the right of that big old elm tree.  Compare this to the photo below, the only comparison shot I could come up with.

In late June the sun was rising right in the lowest spot of the skyline, right in that dip, well to the left (north) of the big old elm.  The position of the sun changes quickly at this time of year at our latitude.

But there are many more signs of the seasons.  The heavy dew in the morning is one of the most obvious on days when I want to do any work in the garden or yard.  You have to wait til afternoon for things to dry out.

These dark Red Osier Dogwood were coated in dew too.  These three pictures were accidentally under-exposed, but they showed the dew better than the ones taken at a normal exposure.

In the morning sun the red colour the dogwoods have already turned also showed up.

And all over this part of Ontario the wheat harvest is just about finished.  This field got caught by the rain which interrupted combining earlier this week.  Now it has to dry out again.

And down the road from our house the purple New England Asters are coming into bloom.  This is the wildflower that typically ends the summer for me.  The summer has flown by, the days are shorter, the evenings cooler, and fall is nearly here.

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Paddling the Marsh Part 3

One more post about our paddle around the marsh at the south end of Lake Eugenia.  Besides following the Beaver River upstream a little, I wanted to see if we could find the entrance to the Little Beaver River, and a narrow channel that supposedly connected two parts of the marsh.

Drifting past the log I ended yesterday's post with, I headed among the stumps and bulrushes to hunt for the Little Beaver River.

 In places there were plenty of these small lily pads.

And lots of stumps like this - hundreds of them.

I found a small cover along the south shore and headed into it in search of the creek.

And this is what I found - the entrance of the Little Beaver, totally blocked off by a logjam.  But I could see and hear water on the other side.  I later confirmed by the air photo below that this was the place.

We turned around and headed north back down the lake.

Past millions of bulrushes.

And then a surprise, in the middle of the marshy shore this rock pile where someone had made little Inukshuks (well little rock figures of some sort anyway).  This lake flooded what were then farms, so it's quite likely that this was a rock pile at the edge of a field 100 years ago.

And we found the channel I was wondering about, and paddled through to check out the far side of the marsh.  It turned out to be much less interesting, with no creek of any sort flowing in, just marsh all along the shore.

So we paddled back through the channel and straight across the lake to the cottage where we had started.  I think this channel must be kept open by cottagers to let them get their boats through.

This is an experiment, but I photographed the computer screen showing the air photo of where we paddled.  We left from a cottage almost in the centre of the picture, and paddled south toward the river entrance.  The light brown around the edges is bulrush marsh, the picture taken in late fall.  You can see the Beaver River flowing in from the right, and we made it up to about the edge of this photo.  Then in the centre at the bottom you can see the little inlet I explored and the Little Beaver flowing in from the south, along with the logjam that blocks it.  You can also see the narrow channel into the marsh to the west, just above the centre of the left shore.  The road across the lake at the top is the causeway.  Hope you enjoyed joining me on this paddle.  We were out paddling again today, on the North Saugeen, a fabulous trip; I'll get to it next week perhaps.