High Tech Dairy Cow Comfort

Agriculture.com writer John Dietz has featured Happy Rock Holsteins Limited of Gladstone, Manitoba and how they converted to an all-robotic, computer assisted dairy barn in September 2013. Read an except below or the entire article here.


Dairy producer Steve Smith, after 37 years of milking cows in the United Kingdom and Canada, has the barn he’s dreamt about. He and wife Nicola hope it is well suited for their children, Amy, Hannah, and Joe. 

The $3.4 million concrete barn has a 392-head capacity, but it’s without a milking parlor. Computers and infrared ID tags for each animal are at the heart of the system. Robots handle nearly all the chores. The need for staffing, Smith says, is down to about eight hours a day that includes record keeping, herd health, feeding, fresh bedding, and other management.

Lely introduced the Astronaut A4 robotic I-flow milking stall about the time Smith was committing to barn construction. Design capacity is approximately 180 visits a day for 60 cows. Smith ordered six A4 milking stalls at about $200,000 each.  

Comfort Milking

According to Lely, the Astronaut A4 achieves a new cow-comfort level. Cows approach the milking stall, walking beside a wall and into an open framework, which ends with their bowl of measured feed. The bowl is mounted on the exit gate. 

While a cow eats, the robot works below to prep and milk the cow. With milking completed and teat dip applied, the exit gate and feed bowl slide out of reach, into the wall. In response, the cow simply walks forward again to clear the milking stall and to make room for the next in line. Always, three or four cows are ready for their turn. 

“This box is built on the outside of the robot. Instead of walking into a completely enclosed stall, the cow walks straight in and straight out. There are no angles, no turning or corners, just a couple sensing bars,” says service technician Jim Voth, Penner Farm Services, Blumenort, Manitoba.

 Comfort Stalls

Smith’s barn was taking shape in early 2013 when Lely introduced the Commodus cubicle for a hygienic radical new approach to cow comfort. His dairy is the first in Canada that is fully equipped with the Commodus bedding stall system. 

The Commodus separates cows with curved, tongue-like steel tubes rather than walls. Each tube is hinged to a central concrete wall that fully supports the tubular device horizontally at a level about 1 meter (yard) above the bedding area.

“The Commodus only segregates cows when they’re standing. They can lie wherever they like underneath it, with no vertical barriers between them,” explains Voth. “When they’re lying down and looking around, it’s all an open area. They feel less confined, so it adds to the level of cow comfort.”  

Read the entire article here.

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Christmas fun at Lely’s factory

Lely employees at the North American headquarters in Pella, IA, enjoyed a Christmas lunch today followed by a festive “Unusual/ugly Christmas holiday attire” contest. Here’s a look at our contestants, and a single shot of our grand prize winner who came as…can you guess it? Cousin Eddie from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation!  The Lely team sends wishes of fun and fellowship to you and your family this holiday season!

Dec19Lely employee Christmas lunch 2014 019 - Edited Christmas apparel contestants Dec19 Lely employee Christmas lunch 2014 045-Cousin Eddie edited


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Misty Hollow Farms Featured in News Segment

Misty and Eric Vogel of Athens, Wis. operate Misty Hollow Farms. A couple years ago, the Vogels added Lely Astronaut automatic milking systems to their dairy. See how the Lely products have changed their herd and their family. Recently they were featured on a segment for WJFW, Newswatch 12 based in Rhinelader, Wis. Watch it here.

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Wordless Wednesday

Thanks to Haasen Farm Ltd. of Timmins, Ontario for sharing the following of their granddaughter: “Future Lely farmer with future Lely cows!”


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Lely Journey

This week Lely welcomed North American guests who are visiting Lely dairy operations across the Midwest. This tour, called the Lely Journey, provided an in-depth look at robotic milking systems and living a Lely life. The tour concludes with a visit to the Lely North American facility in Pella.

Dec10LelyJourneyPic2Lely‘s world of innovative and extensive dairy products including the Lely A4 Astronaut, Lely Juno, Lely Vector and Lely Calm, have improved both the financial and social well-being of dairy farmers. Tour participants have been able to see the products in action and have one-on-one conversations with producers on barn designs, increased in milk production, herd health and labor savings.

Our goal with the Lely Journey is to share the experiences of dairy producers who have converted to using Lely robots and products for their dairy operations. We want to inspire more producers to implement innovative solutions in sustainable milk production. Watch these videos of participants on the Lely Journey this week.Dec10LelyJourneyPic1

Want more information about Lely products? Contact your local Lely Center to find out how to get on an automation experience tour in 2015.

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#Wordless Wednesday

Lely guests are traveling across Minnesota to learn how best to design their barns while seeing others. Hoop style, rafters, pole…which barn style do you prefer? #lelylife






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Pure Holsteins Ltd Taps into Canadian Government Funding to Purchase Lely Robotic Milking System

Pure Article_large

Photo courtesy of The Telegram

We recently featured an article from The Telegram of David and Sara Simmons of Pure Holsteins Ltd., the first dairy farm in Newfoundland to convert to robotic milking systems. They installed two Lely Astronauts in October 2014.

The robotic milking systems were funded through The Growing Forward 2 AgriInnovation Fund and will serve as a model demonstration for the local dairy industry in Newfoundland and Labrador. The industry will benefit tremendously from its introduction. Growing Forward 2 is available to the agriculture sector via federal and provincial streams, addressing the most prominent industry challenges.

The Minister of Natural Resources, Derrick Dalley and Federal Agriculture Minister, Gerry Ritz, announced a $345,000 investment in an innovation robotic milking system for Pure Holsteins.

Minister Dalley added that the provincial government is committed to further growing the dairy industry which has become one of the most successful in the province’s agriculture and agri-foods sector.

“Investment in innovation technology like the robotic milking system is another step in helping the industry become more efficient and competitive,” Dalley said.

To learn more about the funding available through the Growing Forward 2 AgriInnovation Fund, read this article by Mentor Works Ltd.


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Young farmer: The Robotic Generation

We (Lely) had a proud moment this morning when we read a moving piece by one of our Lely robotic milking ambassadors. This young lady belongs to a dairy family in Northeast Iowa that recently transitioned to milking with six A4 Astronauts. However, there is a spin to this story because she also works as Northeast Iowa Dairy Foundation’s Coordinator in Calmar, IA, where she assisted with the startup of the program’s robot barn, which included the installation of two A4 Astronauts about a year ago. 

Dec5Megan Kregelpic_CropRead a column in Dairy Herd Management by Megan Kregel, Dairy Center Coordinator for the Northeast Iowa Dairy Foundation in Calmar, Iowa.


Friday, December 5th, 2014

First, a disclaimer: I am no expert on automatic milking systems (AMS); all I can do is relate my experiences to you and hope you enjoy my story.

Dairying has always been part of my life, even since before I could walk. I believe that my love for agriculture is in my blood. Growing up as the sixth generation on our family farm was a privilege. Granted, it wasn’t always easy, but I’m thankful to have grown up in an environment that taught me family comes first, hard work pays off, and the value of a dollar. Today, our family farm is home to 380 milking cows and six robotic units, with the capacity to add two more robots.

While I go home often, it is not my full-time job. Currently, I am employed by the Northeast Iowa Dairy Foundation in Calmar, Iowa, and serve as the organization’s coordinator. This position allows me to connect with a wide variety of people. I assist with educating students enrolled in agriculture courses at Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC), and also aid in providing continuing educational courses and programming for current producers.

Just as important, I lead consumer education at our facilities, both to tell our story to the public, and ensure them we care for our cows to provide a wholesome and nutritious product. The addition of two robotic milking units has been a tremendous advantage to be able to showcase our facilities to producers and consumers.

Labor an obstacle

The family farm is something I hope to return to one day, but much has changed. Prior to venturing into robotics, labor was a huge obstacle for us – it was extremely difficult to find a reliable, dedicated workforce. At the time, we were milking 270 cows in a 20-year-old double-14 swing parlor, 2X, and spending 10 hours a day in the parlor alone. My Mom and sister did every milking, along with a third, part-time person.

Besides getting the cows milked and fed, and caring for young stock, it was very hard to get a lot of additional work accomplished. The introduction of an AMS was a life-changing experience. We started up on Feb. 11, 2014.

Today, the most common question people ask us is, “What do you do with all of your free time?” We are very quick to explain that we work just as many hours now as we did in the previous system.

The difference is that we are able to accomplish more tasks and focus on areas of the herd that we simply didn’t have time to do before. Another big positive for us is flexibility; we don’t necessarily have to start chores at 4 a.m. and 4 p.m.

My biggest personal joy has been watching my parents simply be happier. They have worked side-by-side for 32 years and they still love what they do. But the robotic system has allowed them to spend some time away from the farm, together.

Dairy farming isn’t easy, but luckily improvements in technology can help to ease some of the strain and allow farmers to spend a little more time with the other big responsibility in their lives – their family.

Contact Megan Kregel at kregelm@nicc.edu or 563-534-9957 ext 107.

For more information on the Northeast Iowa Dairy Foundation, visit www.iowadairycenter.com or www.facebook.com/neiowadairyfoundation.


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Wordless Wednesday – Lely Vector

Check out this great feed kitchen. The Lely Vector is in the middle with minerals directly above on the mezzanine.




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Robots in the milking parlor

Dec2Postcow-robot-milking_400The current issue of Sound Consumer includes a feature by Ariana Taylor-Stanley on Washington’s organic dairies using robots in the milking parlor. Read the excerpt below or the entire article here.

Robotic milking machines might sound like they belong on industrialized megafarms, but the first dairy in Washington to bring robots into the milking parlor was a family-run organic farm. So was the second. In fact, according to Aaron Johnson of Excel Dairy, of the six Washington dairy farms to install robotic milking machines so far, five are organic. As sustainable dairies turn to robotic systems, the robots are helping them to become more sustainable businesses.

The Styger Family Dairy Farm in Chehalis, which sells organic milk from its 90 cows through the Organic Valley co-op, was the first farm in the state to install a robotic milking machine system. Owners Linda and Andy Styger are nearing retirement age and none of their grown children plan to take over the farm.

“The robots give us the chance to be sustainable for at least 10 more years,” Linda Styger explains. She hopes by then her grandchildren will be ready to take over the farm. The robots will make it “easier for a family member to take over and have a better quality of life,” says Styger. “Someday we hope to make that transition for the fourth generation.

Read more.


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