Monday, April 13, 2015

Farm tour and milk plant tour with young cooperators

We got together with the young cooperators from our co-op for a conference.  We toured our MMPA president’s farm (Ken Nobis, who farms with brother Larry and son Kerry) and checked out their manure sand separator.

General Manager of MMPA Joe Diglio pretends this is a candid picture with Ken Nobis
Larry Nobis starts the tour

There are a variety of ways to bed down cattle.  The Nobis family has been using sand bedding since 1974.  When you use sand bedding (like a beach!) you can reuse the sand by using a separator.  

That way, you don’t have to buy new sand, but can squeeze and move the water and manure out of the sand you already used.

The sand separator has, as one of the guys put it, “a lot of moving parts.”  Sand and manure are super for lubrication, obviously!  But they’ve been using it for a long time and are loving the results and ultimate cost savings.

Sand separator 

We also saw their udder gun.  (It doesn’t sound like what it is.)  It cleans the cow teats before milking with two air motor driven brushes that turn.  It’s like an electric toothbrush for cow teats, but it also has the cleaning fluid in it.  It stimulates and cleans.  Here’s Kerry showing it off:  

Then we went on a tour of our Michigan Milk Producers Association plant in Ovid.  Talk about moving parts!  I visited a few years ago, but it’s bigger and better than even then.  One of the new machines we have is a butter churn.  I wasn’t allowed to take pictures in there for fear I’d steal my own co-op’s secrets and use them against myself (I get it, just kidding) but here's one from when I went last time.  This room was still the most amazing to me.

This is one of many amazing rooms
The butter churn is now totally automated.  When I went last time, there were still people involved in cutting the butter.  No more.  Now (even gloved) human hands don’t touch the butter at all.

The sanitary restrictions are in place, too.  At one point we had to climb over a stainless steel wall, cupboard level high, to enter a room where we had to wash our hands and then use sanitizer.  There was no good way to climb over this.  My pregnant friend was more graceful than I was.  She sat, swung her legs around, and stood up on the other side.  I thought maybe I could just step over it, but it was so wide that I reeeeeeeealy had to stretch.  Just another level of cleanliness – no sneaking in there!

Maternity wear, by my friend Chriss

A farmer in front of his barns, a farmer in front of his milk plant

It was really hard to tell us apart. Not kdding

I was impressed with all of it – the room full of milk powder, ready to be shipped, the technical machinery, the efficiency.

We went back and played a trivia game, via phones, with the rest of the young co-op members.  It was a blast – lots of laughs – and our team was doing super well, until our team member’s phone died.  As a result, we didn't get to play for the next two questions.

Looks like there’s always room for improvement, machines.

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