Our Delta History Hunter trip for May was an invited visit to Martin and Ann Hamming’s dairy farm in the Crescent Slough area of Delta. We were met by Ann and daughter-in-law Angela Hamming who kindly showed us around. Warren Nottingham came along too, and augmented our tour with interesting information on the history of the property.
We began our tour inside the nursery barn, where about two dozen, black and white Holstein calves were ensconced in their little cubicles. They were keen to push their noses towards us as we admired them. One little Jersey calf attracted a lot of attention, with it’s tan hide and big black eyes, as did the two piglets at the end of the barn. We then made our way into the dairy, where we saw the enormous cylindrical container that stores two days’ worth of milk. From there the milk goes by tanker to the dairy. Before loading, tests are taken to ascertain whether any antibiotics or other contaminants have entered the milk stream. Should such an accident happen, the farmer will be charged for the whole tanker load of milk, as it would be wasted, so precautions are stringently taken to ensure that the milk is kept pure. Canadian farmers are proud that their milk is both free of antibiotics and free of the RBST bovine hormone that is allowed within US milk. While it is necessary sometimes to treat cows with antibiotics (for example to cure mastitis), their milk during the treatment period is separated from the general collection and discarded.
We saw how this was done when we moved into the milking shed. Here sixteen cows can be lined up for milking at any one time. Their udders are disinfected, then they are hooked up to the milking machines, all of which are now computerized. Under normal conditions their milk will flow along tubes into the storage container. If a cow is receiving medication, its milk would be redirected to a separate bucket. It takes three hours to milk all the cows, and this is done twice a day. The first milking is at 3.30 am, and there is a second milking in the afternoon.
While we were having this tour, we were able to ask lots of questions and there was much discussion about Canadian versus US milk, the pros and cons of more frequent milking, and other such entertaining issues! We then toured a barn with the 4H cows, which are cared for and groomed by children in the 4H club, learning the ways of farming. We viewed the main herd of cows from the upper floor of a large, historic barn. This area, reached by steep wooden steps, used to be filled with hay, but the Hammings have just built new hay storage facilities that are easier to stack. Looking down from this upper floor, we were able to admire the cows in their pens. They have locations for feeding and for resting. The sleeping pens have water beds, so that they can lie comfortably even when their udders are full. They choose for themselves which pen they want to be in, and whether to feed or not, at any time. Generally, they live in this large barn rather than out in the paddocks, as the price of land is so high in Delta it is more cost effective to use the fields to grow forage than have the cows out their eating grass.
The Delta History Hunters would like to say a big thank you to Ann and Angela Hamming for a super tour! Thanks also to Warren Nottingham for his interesting contributions to the discussions and to Claudette Hayward for organizing.
Past-Trustee, Delta Museum and Archives