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By Staff | Apr 4, 2014

My wife and I recently attended a dairy exposition, a bacchanal of cheese and ice cream and chocolate milk. And all for free.

I am not kidding. There were numerous dairy processors at the expo, each of them eager to hand out samples of their flavorsome foodstuffs.

Anytime you felt a bit peckish, cheese or ice cream sandwiches or flavored milk was never more than a few steps away.

It was your own darn fault if you went hungry at this event.

As if that weren’t enough, there was also a cheese-tasting competition. Prizes were offered, so you could essentially get paid for eating cheese.

I didn’t participate as I didn’t feel qualified. On the other hand, I have a lifetime’s worth of experience eating – and therefore judging – coagulated milk proteins.

But there were more than just free dairy products at the expo. On display was the latest and greatest in dairy-related technology, including robots that can milk cows.

If you had told me 15 years ago that there was such a thing as robotic cow milkers, I would not have believed you. My reaction would have been, “Quit lying to me, you lying liar.”

This would have been followed shortly by, “So … where do you suppose I could get one of those things?”

Recalling my dairy farming days, I asked a sales guy in a robotic milker booth what happens when a cow up and kicks a robot.

“For starters, the robot doesn’t stand there grasping its arm and cussing at the cow,” he replied.

That was scary. How did he know what took place nearly every day in my milking parlor?

Animal interface technology has advanced to the point where there are even automated calf feeders. How nifty. The only change I might suggest would be to program the feeder to emit a motherly “moo” whenever a calf nurses.

You dairy technology companies can simply send me a check for that little nugget.

It boggled my mind to imagine how much difficulty and distress could have been avoided on my dairy farm with such technological wonders.

Although my first purchase regarding this type of automation would have been a robot that could go to the banker and beg for … I mean, request a loan.

We over-nighted in a hotel that had cleverly placed its bar in a large central courtyard. The noises emanating from the bar’s patrons zoomed straight up the atrium, through our door and directly into our ear canals.

Some guy had a laugh that was very similar to that of a donkey. We were serenaded by his braying long into the night.

My wife and I are accustomed to the profound quiet of the country, so all this hubbub made sleeping difficult.

Whenever she hears a sound in the middle of the night, my wife will sit bolt upright and ask “What on earth was that?” to which I might reply, “Not sure, but I think a mouse sneezed out by the chicken coop.”

“Well, I hope the cat catches it,” she’ll reply. “I can’t sleep with all that racket.”

This most recent hotel experience is an echo of my very first hotel stay, which took place 30-some years ago on our wedding night.

It was 3 a.m. and we were beyond exhausted, but we kept driving until I found a hotel that had used “El-cheapo” in its name.

The low cost pleased me. But what we didn’t know was that a state high school basketball tournament was being held nearby.

High-spirited – and by “high-spirited” I mean “full of spirits” – teenagers were constantly running up and down the hallway outside our room, enthusiastically vocalizing their enthusiasm for their teams.

We thought the high schoolers would soon grow tired and quiet down or at least go outside and york some of their enthusiasm into a snowdrift. But no. They continued to yell and run – all night long.

Had my wife not advised against it, I would have stomped out into the hallway and hollered at the kids, “Shut up and go to bed. I have to milk cows in the morning.”

Which wasn’t quite true as my brother had agreed to do my chores for a few days. But I liked how righteous it would have sounded had I included the part about milking in the morning.

All in all, we had a pleasant time at the dairy expo. We got to chat with some old friends and meet a few new ones. Which is always a good thing.

But this dairy expo experience has left me wondering: how does one deal with cheese withdrawal?

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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