If you’re looking for a unique and authentic Midwestern experience, you should check out the New Day Dairy in Clarksville Iowa. Dan and Lynn offer B&B accommodation on a working Iowa dairy farm! Not only does the guesthouse have an observation deck (so you can watch the cows in the barn to your hearts content), but included in the price of the stay is a welcome tour and farewell tour that lets you get up close with the cows and the calves!
Disclosure: AD – I received a complimentary stay at the New Day Dairy GuestBarn in exchange for my review. As always opinions are 100% my own!
New Day Dairy Farmstay in Iowa
New Day Dairy has been a working farm since the 1890’s. It’s now part of the Prairie Farms ‘Farmer Owned’ Cooperative, with much of their milk being turned into cream cheese and Swiss cheese and sold under the Prairie Farms branding.
The farm has around 120 Holstein cows. Many of the calves are outside, but the barn is split up into several areas.
- A section for pregnant cows
- A small section for when they are literally about to give birth any second
- An area for when the calves get upgraded from the outside area to the point where they are almost ready to start producing milk
- And then the main area with feed on either side of the barn accessible 24/7, Rita the Robot (more about her later!) in the middle and then all of their sand ‘rest beds’ (sand is used because it is ‘cleaner’, bacteria is unable to grow on it).
It’s interesting to watch them. I half expected the cows to be like normal non nocturnal animals, where they have a bit of a bed time once it gets to night, but they don’t! At 8pm after they had just been given a fresh feed, they all started heading towards their beds. The cows even have their preferred spot where they like to rest! I thought OK it must be cow bedtime.
Cows having a rest!
BUT just before I went to sleep myself (at 11pm), I took a peak at them and they were all back standing up again!! When I got up around 7.30am many of the cows were back laying down though. The younger cows spent more time resting than the adult cows.
Rita The Robot
Here’s the interesting part. New Day Dairy actually uses an automatic milking robot and it’s pretty damn cool. This means that the cows can get milked whenever they please, 24/7. They know to go and join the line, which is a one way system, get milked and then come out the other side.
Rita’s robot arm comes from Japan and has been used for other things before it was a milking machine (such as putting cars together!). It has been programmed to place the milking tube onto the udder and even disinfect and clean in-between. It has a 3D camera on the end so it can see where the udders are. The more it does the movements, it teaches itself and remembers what it needs to do next time.
But its intelligence doesn’t end there. Each cow wears a cow ‘Fitbit’ with a chip. When it enters the milking area, Rita then knows which cow it is. This also helps her to know where the tubes need to be placed on the udder as every cow is different. She takes note of when it came to be milked, how much milk has been collected and even if there is anything wrong with the milk. It knows if it’s getting sick or if there’s a problem with the bacteria levels and will act accordingly.
The cows are also rewarded with a ‘treat’ each time they go to get milked. A little like a protein bar. Depending on what cow it is, Rita adjusts the size of the treat they receive, to keep them balanced.
By Rita logging which cows have been milked that day, Dan and the other farmers can then encourage the ‘lazy’ ones to get up and go through the machine too!
Sleep With The Cows GuestBarn
The GuestBarn at New Day Dairy lets you ‘Sleep With The Cows’. Don’t worry, you don’t actually sleep in the open air barn with the cows! The GuestBarn is attached to the main barn. It doesn’t smell like cows and you don’t hear moo-ing all night!
Looking at the GuestBarn windows from in the cow barn!
Eventually there’ll be 3 guest rooms available. My bedroom had a coded entry lock, a queen ‘Sleep Number’ bed (I never realised what a Sleep Number bed was until I stayed, you can choose how soft or hard the mattress is!), an en-suite bathroom and a desk and a chair. I didn’t actually spend much time in my room!
The upstairs observation area is where I spent most of my time. There are two large windows with tables and chairs that overlook the cow barn. A few of the cows have a coloured strip on them. These correspond with some coloured information cards on the wall that tell you about the cow. This way you can track them and see what they get up to! You’ll also find a selection of books, puzzles and games that you can enjoy.
The downstairs area has a dining room and a kitchen. The bed and breakfast package obviously comes with breakfast and there was plenty of choice! There’s coffee and a huge selection of herbal tea (with both a coffee maker AND a kettle!), orange juice, milk, hard boiled eggs, bagels with butter or cream cheese, fruit, yoghurt, granola and Dutch Letters pastries. The Dutch Letters come from ‘Danielle’s Dutch Delicacies’ (a local Dutch farmer/bakery) and they are AMAZING. Make sure you heat them up because they are even tastier when warm!
Lynn is hoping to create ‘personal pizza packages’ for a small additional fee, so you can make your own dinner from the comfort of the Guest Barn! This is what I did, so I could have dinner while watching the cows! …Just try not to get too put off by them peeing and pooping in front of your eyes while you are trying to eat!
In the area under the stairs, you can purchase local handmade products, such as: soaps and lip balm. A CD player has piano music by a local musician which is really relaxing, I kept it on in the background the whole time. Make sure to add a pin onto the USA cork board that shows where you travelled from!
The WiFi is BRILLIANT, it could stream YouTube and video calls with no problems at all. If you have AT&T as a phone provider, at the moment you can’t receive any service (but then I didn’t expect to get anything as AT&T is poor throughout most of Iowa!).
Welcome Tour, Farewell Tour & Be A Dairy Farmer Challenge
A couple of farm tours are included in the price of the stay, a 30 minute Welcome Tour on arrival and a 30 minute Farewell Tour on the day of departure. You get to take a look at Rita the Robot and pet the cows and the baby calves!
During my stay a cow gave birth just before I arrived! I was able to see close up the mum cleaning the baby and even the fluid sac (??) was still hanging out! The calf kept trying to stand up but it was so wobbly it would fall over and head butt the floor! A newborn calf can stand up within a hour.
They even let me name the calf! As the mother started with a Z (Zow) the calf had to have a Z name too! So I called it Zippy (which is actually a character in a British children’s TV show which ran between 1972 – 1992). The male calves go off to be 4H bottle and bucket cows because obviously they can’t get milked!
For those that want an additional hands on experience, for an additional cost, you can take part in the ‘Be A Dairy Farmer Challenge’. It includes things like: milking a cow, hand feeding the calves, riding in a tractor and cleaning the barn!
Click here to find out more and book a stay at the New Day Dairy GuestBarn!
If you’re travelling from Dubuque, here’s a guide to things to do along the way! Dubuque to Waterloo Road Trip: Awesome Events & Roadside Attractions Along Highway 20 in East Iowa!
Thanks again to Dan and Lynn for having me to stay at New Day Dairy!
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