Cow Taxi Project
• The first summer (2010) we purchased gates and built loading ramps at both the home place where the milking is located and the North 30 where the majority of the grazing acreage exists.
• We began trial runs of moving a select number of cows on our existing (small) stock trailer to assess what we will be looking for in a cow taxi.
• We began collecting and tracking milk production data and cow health data to establish a base line prior to our 3 month impact window coming up this summer.
• We moved the cows first to an eighteen hour milking schedule, and then to a once-a-day schedule.
• We have begun the process of identifying cows that are not suited to once per day milking and culling them.
• We have been researching appropriate trailers for use as a cow taxi and have looked at several of them. We plan to purchase one prior to the grazing season.
• Literature about low stress stock handling began to be reviewed as final plans are developed for the cow taxi.
• We completed construction of our creamery on the farm, Cowslip Creamery (www.cowslipcreamery.com) and obtained licensing for the dairy to sell milk to the creamery.
• The creamery began to make cheese at the end of July and stopped for the winter in October. (Cheese is made only when cows are on pasture.) Milk components important to cheese making began to be tracked.
• We learned that a farmstead creamery is far more difficult, time consuming and expensive than we had anticipated.
• Milk production experienced a small drop at 18 hours and a significant drop at 24 hours.
• Components needed for excellent cheese are different from and sometimes clash with increased production and sustainable farming systems. Examples are claves should be removed from cows immediately; low milk pH is a big problem; no sileage or haylage can be fed; lower production associated with milking frequency means higher components and more cheese.
• Mastitis increase associated with decreased milking frequency appears to be an issue only in some cows.
WORK PLAN FOR 2011
• This spring, prior to the grazing season, we will be purchasing a trailer and adapting it as needed to serve as a cow taxi. We are specifically looking at trailers from the south as they are more open and generally without tops. We milk only in warm months, and cows prefer to see where they’re going.
• Cows will begin to be taxied when the home place pastures no longer support them. Pastures at the North 30 will be managed prior to grazing by harvesting hay and clipping for soil fertility.
• Data collected thus far will be collated in a useful manner and necessary adjustments to collection criteria made prior to the 3 month data collection window. Targeted data will then be collected.
• Final data will be collated, analyzed and prepared for submission.
• The project is not far enough along for formal sharing. We have informally been sharing our efforts with the Michigan State University research dairy at the Kellogg Biological Station and others in the field.
• A handout summarizing our project and findings will be prepared for distribution.
• We will schedule a Cow Taxi Field Day which we will advertise through the Michigan Cheesemakers Cooperative, the Michigan Fresh Milk Council, the Pasture Walks hosted by the Extension Service in Michigan our own newsletter mailing list (over 1000) and MIFFS (Michigan Integrated Food and Farming Systems). We will also be open to presenting our project and findings at other events and workshops in the future.