Allegan County Breakfast on the Farm sets record
Despite cold weather and rain, the Michigan State University Extension Breakfast on the Farm program held last fall at John Schaendorf Dairy near Allegan set a new participation record.
Two thousand seven hundred attendees donned their coats and umbrellas to enjoy a breakfast on the farm and self-guided educational tour to learn about modern agriculture production. Visitors came from 22 counties in Michigan, plus three states and Canada.
John Schaendorf Dairy, owned by John and Connie Schaendorf, started in 1994 with 32 cows. Since that time they have expanded on a continuous basis and the farm now includes a double 25 parallel milking parlor with a water treatment system which removes iron and sulfates, and kills any bacteria in the water; two manure system barns with sand separators; and a recently completed freestall barn with three robotic milkers. The Schaendorf’s currently milk 1,600 cows that produce 13,372 gallons of milk each day. The farm is verified under the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program and has 17 employees, not including family.
The new robotic milkers were a favorite for many of the visitors. Robotic milking systems have been used in Europe since 1992 and in the U.S. since 2000. Robotic milking is a low stress system for the cow and she decides how often and when she will be milked. Cows average three milkings per day and to ensure sanitary milk collection the robot washes itself between each cow and shuts down twice daily for a thorough cleaning. Each cow has an electronic tag on her collar which identifies her and records her production and health records each time she is milked. When the milk is collected, the quantity is measured and checked for quality to ensure healthy milk for consumers. Any milk that does not meet quality standards is discarded.
Visitors left the farm with a more positive impression that farmers do the right thing with regard to caring for the environment; treating and handling food-producing animals; keeping milk safe and providing good housing for the cows. Attendees came away with an increased understanding of the sophisticated technology that is used on today’s modern farms. As a result of the experience, 83 percent of the attendees who completed a survey stated their confidence in Michigan dairy products increased and that they are more likely to purchase Michigan dairy products.