Support in far off places

When it comes to Lely support and service, no one is on an island, even when they are literally on an island.

Erik DuiveEriknvoorde is in the unique position of being a Lely technician on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, working for West Coast Robotics, who’s main shop is a mere 230 kilometers (about 143 miles) and a ferry ride across the Salish Sea away from him.

“Some people have a difficult time deciding if robotics and other innovative products are right for them,” Duivenvoorde said. “They wonder about the service they will get from the dealership, especially if they are located in a remote region, but Lely is committed to everyone.”

Duivenvoorde said, because of their locations, these farmers have become experts on making decisions based on service and reliability.

“The importance of service and reliability of milking equipment has never been greater,” he said. “These farms are prime examples of proving we at Lely stand by that.”

Before Duivenvoorde was hired on and trained to provide service to farms on Vancouver Island, he said West Coast Robotics initially rented a house and placed a temporary technician in the area, making sure the milk producers were never without aid and have since then established a permanent division on Vancouver Island.Van

“There has always been support to get people going, even in remote areas,” Duivenvoorde said. “It was quite the commitment, and that commitment has only increased with the permanent establishment on the island.”

Producers often take time to familiarize themselves a new and innovative product when they are in remote places, he said. The ability for Lely to have people like Duivenvoorde in these remote regions takes a lot of the worries away and shows that Lely is committed to everyone.

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Lely Journey Tour visits seven dairies

FullSizeRenderLely North America hosted another Lely Journey the week of April 11 where dairy owners from across North America visited Midwest dairy operations using Lely products.

Producers had the opportunity to see the barns and equipment firsthand and ask questions of the Lely dairy producers. The tour included visits to dairies throughout Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.

The first stop was Leedle Farms Black Cat Dairy in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, which installed eight Astronaut A4 automated milking systems, along with Discover mobile barn cleaners and Juno automatic feed pushers in 2012.

In all, participants were able to see:
• 30 milking robots spread throughout seven farms in seven different robot configurations.
• A variety of sizes and barn layouts including new construction and retrofit.
• Many Lely barn products in action.

The Journey Tour concluded with a behind-the-scenes tour of Lely North America headquarters so participants could experience each phase of robot production. They were able to watch the testing process and get an inside look at robot components.

To see more photos from the Lely Journey Tour visit us at or follow us on Twitter @DairyRobot.

If you have an interest in participating in a future Lely Journey Tour, please contact your local Lely Center for more information or email us at


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Lely Robot Start-up Preparation

Robyn1by Robyn Walsh, Farm Management Support Advisor at Grand River Robotics in Ontario. 

If you’re a dairy farmer or involved in agriculture, you can probably recollect a story about a “wild” robot start-up. It probably highlights some dramatic moments and some worst case scenarios of things that can and did go wrong with a start-up. These moments are part of a transition period, and like any good transition, the more preparation that is involved, the smoother the transition can go. After being involved in close to 50 start-ups, I have come up with a preparation list for producers to aid in this process.

Who: Ask neighbors, friends, and dairy producers for help. You will need help. Whether it’s covering one of the night shifts, helping during the day so you can grab a nap, or assigning some of the regular farm chores to someone else , the help allows you to focus on milking cows and familiarizing yourself with the robots(s).

What: Your Farm Management Support representative will discuss hoof trimming, udder singeing, and top dressing with robot pellets before start up. Listen to them, they have done this before. Make sure to gather the items you will need before start-up day. I have witnessed many producers scrabbling to find extra gates, ropes, help, etc. on the day of. This may sound simple, but gathering the things you need a few days in advance can go a long way. You will want extra water hoses for keeping boots and the robot clean; STURDY gates so it’s as simple as possible to move a cow into the robot; ropes or chains for holding gates; a halter (just in case); and food (for you, your helpers and the cows). Check feed and commodity supplies to ensure you will have enough for the next few weeks. Trust me, your mind will be preoccupied. Most importantly, make sure you have food for you and your family/helpers. Order or make lots of easy to handle meals beforehand. You will forget to eat and you don’t want to live off potato chips and cookies for a week. When you’re tired, improper nutrition will only make you grumpier.

When: Discuss with your dealer/builder/trucker/neighbors/banker/nutritionist/vet/dog walker when you will be starting up. This way, they will be prepared as well and they may even offer to assist or at least drop by with coffee to be nosey.

Where: Are you a retrofit or a new build? Are animals being transported? If you’re not moving cows or only moving them a short distance, this is not much of an issue. If you are transporting animals a great distance, decide on a method of transportation in advance. Perhaps hire people who regularly move cattle.

Why: Are these preparatory item required? No. But are they highly recommended? Absolutely! By doing all this prep work before your start-up, dare I say, you may even enjoy your start-up!

How: This one is pretty much up to you. Whether you’re a hand written list maker, or use the calendar app on your smart phone, check items off the list as they are completed. Assign family members and employees specific tasks. Set up a schedule for helpers so you don’t end up with 20 people the first day and tumbleweeds the next. Spread out help and allot time for your own rest. Perhaps hold a meeting for everyone involved so everyone understands what will happen.

The earlier in advance you begin planning, the easier things will be. By having completed some simple prefatory work, you can seriously improve the efficiency of your start up. This way, even when the unknown events do arise, they should be more straightforward to deal with, decreasing both your and your animal’s stress level.

Robyn Walsh received her Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture from the University of Guelph. Robyn continued her education in the dairy industry by going through Robot Signals training from Vet Vice, a commercial enterprise in the Netherlands, which delivers practical and reliable information on dairy cow housing and husbandry to dairy producers worldwide.




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Several factors associated with increased milk production identified for automatic milking systems

For years, Lely has said free cow traffic contributes to cow comfort, which, in-turn, increases milk production. Now, research from the University of Wisconsin provides data to back this up.

The research, completed by Marlene Tremblay, Justin Hess, Brock Christenson, Kolby McIntyre, Ben Smink, Arjen van der Kamp, Lisanne de Jong and Dorte Dopfer, and published in the Journal of Dairy Science 2016, says cows in free cow traffic robot systems give about 1 kg, or 2.2 lbs, of milk per cow per day more than guided or forced cow traffic.



Previously, few studies examined the relationship between traffic type and milk yield, but the ones that did were limited in sample size and did not offer a clear consensus. This study, which covered 635 robot farms in North America, analyzed more than 71,000 weekly observations to find optimal situations for robot herds amongst current owners. The data, paired with farm specifics, such as breed, geographic location and pen size and other variables, found that several factors were contributed to increased milk production.

The researchers found that the presence of a single robot per pen was associated with decreased milk production per robot per day when compared with pens using two or more robots per pen. The pens using two robots averaged 60 kg, or 132.3 lbs, of milk per robot per day more than pens with one robot.

To read the see more information on the Journal of Dairy Science article, go to

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Feeding Well = A Full and Healthy Rumen

DSC_0221by Jan Hulsen 

It’s important to check feeding every day in all groups of cows and young stock. Ask yourself: Are the cows eating well? Are they milking well? Is the rumination and manure ok?

At the same time, at least once a week, carry out a thorough check on the feed,  the feeding process, feed intake and digestion. Use a checklist and as an absolute minimum keep an eye on:

  • Feed storage: Make sure there aren’t any heat issues, mold or other loss of quality.
  • Feed quality: Assess the feed quality. Is the dry matter content still the same? Are you still feeding the same material on which the ration calculation is based or has something changed?
  • Feeding: Is the sequence right? Are you loading the right quantities? Is the ration being mixed properly? Make sure you mix long enough but not too long. Is the right feed reaching the right animals?
  • Feed intake and digestion: Are the cows eating happily? Are they selecting or not? Is the pen clean? How much dry matter are they eating? Are they ruminating properly? Is the manure well digested and is it appropriate to the ration? Are the cows producing well? Does this apply to at-risk animals too? Are there minimal differences between animals in a group?

In addition to this, check the results against your goals at fixed times and draw up a plan for achieving your goals over the coming period. How often you do this will depend mainly on how often you change feedstuffs and hence the ration. Do it at least once a month.

For more information visit

(This is an excerpt of a longer article)

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Lely Center Support Important to Luettels

Brad and Dean Luettel and their mother, Ruth, transitioned from a stanchion barn last year to a new facility with two Lely Astronaut A4 automated milking systems for use with 128 cows.

LNA_Luettle_InfographicIn making their decision to build their new barn and equip it with robots, the Luettels, who milk Holsteins cows near Adrian, Minnesota, worked closely with Gorter’s Clay and Dairy, their local Lely Center.

“We initially looked into a parlor and weighed our options,” said Brad Luettel. “We met with Gorter’s and they showed us several different barns in the area. Together, we discussed the costs as well as the labor savings we would experience with robots. Gorter’s was very helpful and we know that many dairy operations in the area rely on them.”

Before converting to robots, the Luettels worked with Gorter’s, a nutritionist and a veterinarian. The start-up team provided guidance for daily routines, recommendations on everything from feed to hoof care and developed a transition plan for their operation.

Brad Luettel said, during the past year, Gorter’s provided support when they needed it. When Brad once needed help at 3 a.m. he called his Lely Center support team and they were able to help him solve his problem.

“Whenever we have a question or need help, even in the evenings or weekends, we can always reach someone and usually they can assist us over the phone,” said Brad Luettel.  “However, they are also always willing to come in person if needed.  It’s been very important to us that we can turn to our local Lely Center and they can coach us along the way.”

See more on the Luettel Dairy.

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Kenyon Hill Farm Gains More Herd Information with Lely

Two years ago, Curtis Nolan was sure renovating the milking parlor was the next step for Kenyon Hill Farm, his family’s dairy located in northeastern
New York.

Then he learned about Lely’s automated milking system.

“We weren’t even thinking about robots initially,” Curtis said. “After learning more about robots and seeing robot barns we stopped thinking we would renovate the parlor.”

Kenyon Hill Farm, operated by Curtis, his dad, Mike, and his brothers, Shane and Ryan, started milking with four Astronaut A4 automated milking systems in September 2015. In addition to the A4, Kenyon Hill also utilizes a Juno automatic feed pusher and Luna brushes.


Paul Godin, from their local Lely Center, Lely Center Vermont, initially introduced the family to automatic milking as an option to manage labor. However, the family quickly realized free flow traffic and voluntary milking could improve cow comfort as well.

 “When we visited robot barns, we could tell a difference right away. It was so calm and quiet,” Curtis said. “If a cow can be lying down or eating, she’s better off than standing waiting to be milked. That’s a big difference.”

Lely Center Vermont provided guidance from the beginning, helping the Nolans determine the best layout for retrofitting their barn. During start-up, the Lely Center Vermont team remained on-site, 24 hours a day, for the first three days, which provided some relief to the Nolans as they continued to milk approximately half the herd in the parlor.

The Nolans continue to receive support from Lely Center Vermont and also work with FMS team member Sara McBurney, who provides guidance through webinars and phone calls. Both teams answer questions and offer tips to help Kenyon Hill Farm achieve their goals.

In addition to improved cow comfort, Curtis said the information gathered from the rumination and activity tags is helping be more precise in the best time to breed. Prior to having that information at his fingertips through the Lely T4C, he would typically breed in the afternoon after noticing a cow in heat during morning chores.

“I learned I am breeding cows later than I should have,” Curtis said. “T4C helps me determine the optimal time for breeding, which is helpful.”

Between the Lely Center Vermont, the FMS team and the Lely T4C, Kenyon Hill Farm is finding new and exciting ways to better manage their herd and improve their lives.

See more on Kenyon Hill Farm.

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Robotic Start-up Success on Twin Brook Farm with Help of Lely FMS Team

A successful robotic start-up for a dairy converting to a Lely automatic milking system means more than installing robots. It requires careful planning and preparation. To help make the transition as smooth as possible for both the cows and producers, the Lely Farm Management Support (FMS) team provides customized, one-on-one support before, during and after installation.

Twin Brook Farm in Lynden, Washington, a fifth-generation family operation run by Larry Stap and his son-in-law Mark Tolsma, recently transitioned from a double parlor to three Lely Astronaut A4 automated milking systems. Twin Brook Farm exclusively milks 180 Jersey cows and processes and markets their own products.

LNA_Twin Brook_IMG_2477

Click to hear more from Twin Brook Farm and Creamery

Right from the start, Mark and Larry worked closely with Daritech, their local Lely Center, and FMS Advisor Dan Meihak on plans, including barn design, work processes and installation and start-up, to ensure a smooth transition.

“They were there every step of the way,” Tolsma said of the FMS team. “That was important. Whenever you start a new venture you need the support behind you to help you out.”

Prior to installation, Lely NA and Daritech held several webinars and phone calls and made visits to the farm to provide assessments and recommendations on topics ranging from feed to hoof care to daily routines. By the time the robots arrived, Mark and Larry had a plan tailored to their operation. In addition, the team built a start-up plan addressing cow grouping and staffing for the week. Once the robots arrived, team members from Daritech stayed on-site to assist and help train cows for the quickest transition possible.

Twin Brook Farm was prepared for the transition and experienced phenomenal success with their start-up. The cows transitioned very smoothly, In fact, Stap reports cows are eager to go into the robot and it’s not uncommon to find a line at all three robots. The farm, which processes and markets its own products, has also seen an increase in production. During the first six months, the dairy experienced increased average milk production by nearly 10 pounds per cow, according to Stap.

The support doesn’t stop after installation, a fact Tolsma said he finds reassuring. Follow-up farm visits and webinars are standard to make sure each operation continues to operate smoothly. And if they encounter an issue, they have access to 24/7 support from Lely and Lely Centers.

“I know if I call Daritech they’ll be here in 10 minutes whether it’s midnight or early in the morning without fail. And Dan will always answer the phone as well,” Tolsma said. “It’s great knowing people back you up.”

See more on Twin Brook Farm.



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Keep Robots Running Well in Cold Weather

Temperatures dropping outside and inside the barn create issues with frozen water hoses, cords, water troughs and, in some cases, frostbite for cows’ teats. All of these issues will affect your cows’ visits to the robot and yield and, last but not least, your own (unplanned) workload and efficiency.

Feb17 _laser_under_cow-683x1024Daan Stehouwer, a Lely master product specialist, says, “Although we strongly advise to keep the robot in a frost-free environment, they have shown to be capable of milking in colder environments if they have continuous visits and alarms are attended to promptly. If alarms occur, act upon them promptly so the system does not shut down.”

Stehouwer says sometimes the first things to freeze up are the ropes underneath the robot arm during milking, as they can be exposed to cold winds.

If possible, prevent the rope exposure to freezing cold by pumping warm air over pressure from the milking, cooling or compressor room to the robot room. If this air can be blown underneath the cow and the robot arm when the rest of the room is sealed, that will prevent freezing

In addition, keep the ropes greasy and keep water out of them by soaking them in silicone spray or Vaseline,” Stehouwer says.

In some cases installing freezer curtains around the robot to create a warm air pocket around the robot can be a good solution.

“This resolves all issues but the cows need to get used to it and it requires construction,” Stehouwer says.

Other tips include:

  • Chose a teat dip that has additional skin conditioners to protect the cows’ teats from little cracks and frost damage.
  • Adjust the automatic ventilation control and put fan covers on to make sure barn curtains are in good shape.

Overall, think in advance about any mechanical issues that could occur on your farm in wintertime, and act proactively. For more information on Lely products visit

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Darryl De Groot, owner and operator of De Groot Longview Acres in Thedford, Ontario, Canada was the winner of the Lely North America “Calm-on and Win” promotion. He and members of his family were presented with the prize at the London Dairy Congress by Avonbank Ag Solutions.

Darryl De Groot, owner and operator of De Groot Longview Acres in Thedford, Ontario, Canada, was selected as the winner of the Lely North America “Calm-on and Win” promotion and was presented with the prize during the London Dairy Congress this week. De Groot and his family received a Lely Calm automatic calf feeding system, 10 calf jackets and a 30-day supply of Caltive milk replacer. The promotion, awarded by Tony Brazda and Rich Peters of Lely North America, and Jerry Martens and Mike Hargrave of Avonbank Ag Solutions, is a way for Lely North America to give back to the dairy industry by improving a dairy farmer’s lifestyle while reducing their workload.

About the Lely Calm automatic calf feeding system

The Lely Calm optimizes the growth and development of calves by allowing them to drink whenever they want, rather than manual calf feeding, which restricts calves to 1-2 feedings a day. When a calf enters the station, it is recognized by its transponder and the Calm determines if the calf is allowed to drink and how much it may drink per visit. The automation process provides a labor savings of 60 percent-70 percent and generally pays for itself after three years of use. The Calm cleans itself automatically and introduces robot milking to cows at a young age, allowing them to interact with automated systems.

About Caltive milk replacer

Designed specifically for the Lely Calm feeding stations, Caltive milk replacer ensures optimal growth and development for healthy calves. Caltive powder provides optimal nutrition with a combination of quality proteins, easily digestible fats and oils, and a blend of vitamins and minerals in the same amount of solids that calves receive through their mothers.

Learn more about Lely Calm.

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