Ellington Dairy Farm Expands– and – Wants All to See

Ellington Dairy Farm Expands– and – Wants All to See

Building a 350,000 square-foot dairy barn and milking parlor that houses thousands of cows in a relatively visible part of town is naturally going to focus a lot of public attention on the operation.

And that is why Oakridge Dairy in Ellington is so intent on opening its doors to its neighbors in a variety of ways to try to prevent negative perceptions from forming about the enormous facility that opened in June.

“We’re surrounded by people and they want to know what we’re doing here and where their food comes from,” company CEO Seth Bahler said. “So we’re trying to be as transparent as possible and educate the public about modern farming.”

The farm did exactly that in late October, when they held a one-day open house that drew more than 2,000 curious visitors, who toured the farm on guided hay wagons and were treated to hot apple crisp and fresh cold milk.

“It was a tremendous success,” Bahler said, adding that the event served as a template for future plans that call for perhaps 100,000 annual visitors to the farm, which was founded by Adolph Bahler more than 120 years ago and is considered the largest dairy in Connecticut. 

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Finishing touches are now being put on a major part of those plans - a viewing room outfitted with an array of large windows that overlook an automatic milking carousel that is the heart of the operation.

Powered by five electric motors that rotate the milking platform on Teflon wheels running on a circular metal track, the carousel holds 72 cows at a time.

It runs virtually 24 hours a day, only shutting down three times daily for the system to be washed and sanitized. 

Milked every eight hours, each cow is first given an application of anti-bacterial orange iodine foam to the teats, which is wiped off a few seconds later by another worker using a bright green microfiber towel.

“Every cow has her own towel,” which are laundered in machines installed near the carousel, facilities director Dave Moser said as he supervised the operation.  

A third worker then attaches the vacuum milking unit. A digital flow meter mounted beneath each milking station displays exactly how much milk each cow is producing, and the milking unit automatically shuts down and drops off when she is done.