Dairy farming is hard work, but people who do it also like to have fun. And they did have fun on July 18 at the Prescott County Holstein Club’s Family Night, held at Wilkridge Farm near Fournier.
The annual event gives family and friends from the local Holstein dairy community an opportunity to get together and enjoy an evening of food and entertainment and have a break from barn and field work.
Ken Wilkes of Wilkridge Farm thanked everyone for attending. More than 400 tickets had been sold, which did not include children who got to attend for free.
One of the most popular activities during the evening was “Dunk-a-Vet,” a dunk tank where people could pay to have a try at dunking a local veterinarian into a tub of water. Dr. Darryl Smith of the Vankleek Hill Veterinary Service said that all of the funds raised at the dunk tank would be matched by the animal hospital and donated to 4H Clubs in Prescott County. Smith estimated that more than $300 had been raised at the dunk tank that evening, meaning that a contribution of more than $600 to 4H was likely.
The evening also featured a pork and chicken dinner catered by Binerie Plantagenet and music by Fridge Full of Empties.
The family night is hosted by a different farm each year and Ken Wilkes said he was happy to host this year’s edition at Wilkridge, along with his wife Peggy and son Andrew, who is the sixth-generation Wilkes to be involved with the farm. Daughter Leigh-Anne Wilkes and fiancé Sean Harder were also at the event, visiting from their home in Saskatchewan. The Wilkes’ other daughter, Hannah McRae lives in Edmonton with her husband Phil.
Wilkridge built a new barn two years ago and it was open for visitors to take a self-guided tour during family night. The days of milking by hand or attaching milking devices to cattle are becoming a thing of the past at farms like Wilkridge. The new barn includes two robotic milking machines in an enclosure in the centre of the barn. Cattle simply walk in, the machine attaches itself, milks the cow, a rationed amount of feed is provided, and then the cow walks out. If the computer determines it is not time for the cow to be milked or fed, the machine does nothing, and the cow eventually walks out.
Modern dairy barns also contain comforts for cattle. At Wilkridge, two spinning brushes, like those found in automatic car washes, are suspended on arms. Cattle can stand underneath them to have their backs scratched. It also helps keep them clean.
“The farming community needs good news,” Ken Wilkes said, in reference to recent concerns over international trade agreements and political tensions with trading partners like China.
However, Wilkes said the dairy community in Prescott County is vibrant and strong, and the family night was an example of that.