Pauline Thorson King visits Curt and Cheryle Boettcher's robotic milking parlor near Wykoff as residents of Ostrander's care center enjoyed an outing last Tuesday afternoon.  Residents also got to see the Boettchers' antique potato picker.  GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Pauline Thorson King visits Curt and Cheryle Boettcher's robotic milking parlor near Wykoff as residents of Ostrander's care center enjoyed an outing last Tuesday afternoon. Residents also got to see the Boettchers' antique potato picker. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Oh, how things are so dairy different down on the farm!

Even Bessie's gone high-tech, with her very own iStall...

That's what amazed residents of Ostrander's care center visiting Curt and Cheryle Boettcher's farm outside of Wykoff, where the milkhouse blues of sitting on a three-legged stool and fearing the manure-covered switch of Bessie's tail are no longer since the Boettchers installed a robotic milking parlor with two machines that can milk up to 70 cows per day and is programmed to milk each cow a certain number of times a day.

Of course, the amazement began with Curt himself when the family made the big decision, chose to tech up and close operations in their stanchion barn, moo-ving on up to the deluxe dairy on the other side of the farm. He shared last spring before the family hosted the Fillmore County Dairy Night on the Farm, "It's a completely different way of milking cows. I still think it's unbelievable how it works. It's definitely helping. We spend a lot less time milking, even though we still have to do the feeding and cleaning chores. There's less time in the barn."

The sheer speed of the milking machines, from the milking process itself to the machines' self-cleaning cycle, garnered comments from the care center residents, who marveled at how the cows can be convinced to be milked just by being promised a pellet treat - trotting into the parlor as scheduled on a rotation, standing still, then trotting out again right on time.

A resident noted that "milking took a long time by hand," so when Brian Boettcher related that the family milks an average of 220 cows a day, the math of milking such a large herd by hand mounted.

Pauline Thorson King inquired, "Does anything ever go wrong?" while another resident asked if the cows ever kick the milking hoses off, and yet another wanted to know how many acres the family maintains to feed its herd.

Cheryle replied that they "have 700 acres and rent another 100" as she passed out cow-shaped sugar cookies complete with Holstein spots to the visitors.

The residents also were privileged to see the family's vintage potato picker - a slightly rusty implement with gears, wheels and wires that were once the most advanced in potato harvesting - before boarding the bus back to the care center, having enjoyed a beautiful late April afternoon on a dairy different farm.