Westend dairy hosts tour for blind students
July 28, 2022
Last week, youth who are attending a camp sponsored by the Department of Blind Services visited the Burkhalter Farm in Grays River. They are using the WSSB (Washington State School for the Blind) in Vancouver for their housing. They made the trip to the Burkhalter's organic farm so the youngsters could experience an actual farm for themselves.
The students ranged from 14-16 years in age. They were excited to meet day-old calves, as well as adult cows, and to learn about the robotic system used for milking the herd.
The whole group wanted to touch the day-old calves, and Susan Burkhalter was happy to help them.
The visitors came to the farm because Theo Burkhalter is a student at the school. The school has all grades for the students, including for fifteen-year-old Theo. He is legally blind which qualifies him for the school's assistance with room and board, as well as classes at the school. The Burkhalter family adopted him. He is home for the summer with his family and he is a happy, smiling young man. His two brothers, Gus and Bowen, were also adopted by the Burkhalters. The three brothers add to the three generations that live on the farm.
An important aspect of visiting the farm was the opportunity to have the robotic milking machines explained by Gary Burkhalter while the group was touring the milking barn.
These machines do the work of several people that would have to be hired if the farm didn't have the robotic milking machines.
The "robots" will first wash the large bag of milk on each cow, then find and connect to each teat, then do all the work of milking each cow, and even notify the family electronically if something is wrong.
"Grandma Lois" Burkhalter was there, sharing her amazement at the reduced amount of work needed by using the robotic machines.
One advantage is that no one must wait in the barn for the "last cow" to get milked. The family can leave for dinner knowing that the last cow will be milked automatically.
If there is a problem, the machine will contact the family to let them know. Grandma Lois was present enjoying the group, along with Nicole Burkhalter, Austin's wife. After the tour, the group had a ride on the hay wagon around the farm and a lunch.