Living the Lely Life by Anna Regele

anna-regele-family-farm-photoAnna Regele, her husband Chris and their five children (Carter, 6, Cohen, 5, Cheyenne, 4, Chase, 2, and Claire, 1) live in Earlton, a small dairy hub in northern Ontario. They purchased the farm six years ago and are currently milking 55 Jerseys. They raise all their young stock and grow the needed forages on 190 acres. We asked Anna to share their Lely story.

by Anna Regele of Earlton, Ontario

Our lives changed drastically late one August evening. Nothing can describe how we felt when we looked out the kitchen window and saw our 75-cow dairy barn in flames. For that evening, the world stopped turning. But, with the rise of the sun, a new day began, and some decisions were to be made: Do we quit farming? If so where would we work, and how would we support our family? Do we rebuild? If so, how big, and what type of technology do we want?

So the research began. We couldn’t quit farming; it’s in our blood. That fall we travelled—tours to two Farm Shows and visits to numerous successful dairy farms—but we still had questions.

Lely offered to show us more, taking us on a trip to Iowa to visit 5 farms of different sizes and giving us the opportunity to ask farmers questions that we needed answers to. The highlight of our trip was to Iowa’s Dairy Center, a two-robot barn with Holsteins on one side and Jersey’s on the other. This center is run in partnership with the local College and University, so we were able to obtain the facts and numbers that we were looking for in reference to robotic efficiency, energy use, as well as the comparison of the breeds. We came away from that trip having made 2 decisions. The first was to go ahead with a robotic barn, the second to put Jersey’s in the barn.

regele-img_0678The next hurdle was to build the barn. Lely was with us every step of the way, making sure things would fit and traffic flow was adequate. There were multiple site visits and they were there to answer every question we could throw at them.

Those first few days were tough—between teaching cows, learning the robot, and dealing with all the other hassles a new barn has to offer— but we wouldn’t change it for anything! We started milking right on schedule and under budget. Our Lely robot has changed our lives for the better! We love the flexibility of time that we have now.

With five kids we can now attend all their events without having to worry if we will be done in time for chores. We spend at least an hour less a day doing chores, and the time spent in the barn is focused on herd management, not milking cows.regele-img_0677

Our cows are healthier and happier than ever before. We use the Lely reports daily to ensure they stay that way. It is routine to check the SCC levels in the herd daily, as well as any other health alerts. The detailed reports are perfect for meeting production goals and providing us with information that we didn’t have immediate access to before, such as milk quality and detailed activity graphs. These all help to make our one-man operation run smoothly.

To those considering if robots are for you, do your research and visit farms. The decision can be tough, but our Lely robot was the perfect fit for our family.

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Lely Vector at work on Vanvalley Farm

PowerPoint PresentationFor Ben and Margie VanBoven and their son, Matt, who operate Vanvalley Farm Ltd, located on Vancouver Island in the Cowichan Valley region in British Columbia, the Lely Vector provides fresh feed to their herd multiple times a day, saves on fuel costs while accurately mixing and providing feed management with less waste.

In 2015, after renting a total mixed ration (TMR) mixer the previous winter and doing the math on fuel consumption, labor and capital cost of a tractor and TMR mixer, the family decided to purchase a Lely Vector automatic feeding system. The barn had a large roofed, cemented area that was not being utilized that the family turned into a feed kitchen.

“In July of 2015, we started feeding with the Vector and, to this day, we have not seen an increase in our hydro bill (electric bill). We also saw an increase in milk production to 40 liters (83 lbs.) per day,” Margie said.

The Lely Vector keeps cows fed by scanning the feed height at each group and making on-demand mixes when needed. This way, cows always get fresh, accurate mixes throughout the day, resulting in less waste and spoilage.

The system is completely adaptable to any farm and feeding program.  Feed types, rations, feed groups and feeding routes can be adjusted at any time.

Filling the feed kitchen can happen at any time throughout the day, and allows for three days of storage (at least), so the labor required to feed your cows decreases dramatically.

Dec30Number3Now over a year into using the Lely Vector, Margie is still raving about the energy savings and dependability the robot provides.

“We have been operating the Lely Vector for 16 months now and just love it,” Margie said. “We have it programed to push up every 40 minutes or 36 times a day.

“With the Vector, we save time and labor and the cows are always fed on time; never early and never late.  It is an investment, but you have to consider the labor cost of having someone do that for you.”

See the Lely Vector in action on the Vanvalley Farm for yourself.

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Improve feed efficiency with new Lely T4C Vector reports

_CSO9550_Vector_barn_overhead_SmallLely now has new software for its Lely Vector automatic feeding system that offers dairy producers more insights and control over their feeding process and results. The latest version of the Lely T4C management system provides reports that offer more insights into feed costs in relation to milk production.

Lely redesigned the entire software based on user experience. Ration settings and analysis can be performed on a desktop PC, while a smartphone is used for operational management. This software is available for all existing and new Vector users.

By making the relevant information easily accessible and understandable, dairy producers are more in control of their feed management process. Real-time information helps the producer make fact-based decisions in order to improve feed efficiency. Minimum feed losses and rest feed have a positive impact on the margin of feed, resulting in a higher profit for the farmer.Dec30Number4

With the Vector, each group of animals receives the appropriate ration several times a day. Every group within the herd always gets the right quantities of feed for the cows’ age and phase of the lactation cycle. The Lely Vector minimizes labor, feed costs and fuel consumption and provides fresh feed for healthy and productive cows.

Key performance indicators such as average feed intake per day and per animal are helping dairy producers. The new reports give an overview of the fed ration and the costs for a specific animal group in a specific time frame.

The Lely T4C management system connects the Lely Vector automatic feeding system with the Lely Astronaut milking robots for real-time management information. Now producers are able to feed according to their cows’ needs, allowing them to excel in milk production.

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Preparing for winter

The winter wind and snow will be blowing soon. Now is the time to consider any issues that could occur on your farm in wintertime, and be proactive to prevent costs of frozen water hoses, cords and water troughs. All of these issues which can affect your cows’ behavior, yield and your workload and efficiency. Dec30Number5

Leah Lange, a Farm Management Support (FMS) advisor for Fitzgerald Inc., a Lely Center in eastern Iowa, recommends a good barn cleaning before winter.

In addition, make sure your rodent control plan is in place before they start eating wires.

“Rodents have been a problem on many farms this fall, so be extra vigilant in checking for problems with mice before the cold temperatures set in,” she said. “Assess whether you have already have a problem and then get bait and traps set throughout the barn.”

Below is a checklist with tips to prepare you for winter.

  • If you use heaters within your robot area, test them in advance.
  • If your robot area is sensitive to cold airflow, think ahead about how to stop this and what kind of materials you might need. Purchase these materials in advance.
  • Typical rough or worn out cup cords are more sensitive to frost. Check your cup cords and replace them when necessary.
  • Spray the cords with silicone if needed. Vaseline works well too.
  • Check and calibrate the correct proportion of water and chemicals for cleaning.
  • If you are using a ‘heating ribbon’ for your water supply, check its function.
  • If you have insulated water pipes, visually check the insulation.
  • Check that the water boiler is working properly and keeps reaching the desired temperature.
  • Ask yourself whether your footbath management should be adjusted to wintertime.
  • If alarms occur, act upon them promptly so the system does not shut down.
  • Adjust the automatic ventilation control and put fan covers on to make sure barn curtains are in good shape.
  • Chose a teat dip that has additional skin conditioners to protect the cows’ teats from little cracks and frost damage.

For more information on Lely products visit


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Tips for Transitioning Dairy Cows from Pasture to Winter Feed

howardWinter is coming. Days are shorter, colder and darker. There is much to do before those first few flakes of snow cover the countryside like a woolen blanket. Thankfully, Howard Straub III, dairy manager with the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, Pasture Dairy Center at Michigan State University (MSU), has a few tips to allow for an easier transition for dairy cows during these last few weeks of fall grazing.

1. Straub recommends that dairy producers plan out the rest of the grazing season now. For many producers in the Midwest, the paddocks the cows are in today will not be used again this year. If you are a producer who is stockpiling grass, know which paddocks those will be and use the current growth rate to predict how much you will have available to feed. Keep in mind that it takes high quality grass to drive cows to and from the pasture.

2. Convert your cows to winter rations slowly. Straub recommends a minimum of four weeks when changing the cows forage diet to winter “partial” TMR (pTMR) or balage, slowly increasing the percentage of intake. This will reduce the stress of a diet change on the herd. As an example, Straub says his high stocking rate cattle (1.5 head/acre) are currently receiving 68 percent of their forage needs at the bunk. The low stocking rate cattle (1 head/acre) are receiving 45 percent of their forage needs at the bunk. Both of these groups will be at 90 percent or greater by the third week of November.

robot_-_waiting_for_milking3. Straub says you should time your bunk feeding to help with robot visitations. Feeding at the bunk will drive cows back to the barn, especially when you first begin. If your robots are currently used the least between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. (as they were at MSU), feed at 4:30 a.m. or 5 a.m. and your visitations will immediately increase.

4. Do not overgraze your paddocks going into winter, says Straub. Leave at least 1,000 lbs. dry matter /acre (2.5 inches deep, depending on species). This will allow the plants to recover well next spring and not abuse the root reserves.

5. Straub suggests you don’t forget to remove all the temporary fencing equipment out of the pastures. Poly wire, reels, and step in posts have a tendency to be taken down by wildlife or weather if left out over winter and unused. Blow out unprotected water lines to avoid spring surprises.

The Pasture Dairy Center, which integrates Lely automatic milking technology and pasture-based management, is one of two MSU dairy farms and works to expand the research capacity of MSU.

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Lely Luna Cow Brush provides optimum comfort and hygiene for cows

luna_brush_withcow_cob_3iThe ideal robotic milking barn optimizes cow comfort.

Larry Stap of Twin Brook Creamery says cow comfort is important in his operation that includes a milk processing facility. The Lely Luna has helped their herd become more productive and in his opinion, longer-lived.

“Comfortable cows make productive cows,” said Stap. “You always have to be thinking of new technology.”
The Lely Luna cow brush is designed to groom cows, enabling them to get rid of uncomfortable dust and itches. The result is a happier, healthier and more productive herd.

Suitable for short–haired cows older than one year, the Lely Luna design enables the brush to be driven by touch, which then rotates in the opposite direction once the cow pushes against it. This ensures maximum comfort for the cow and a longer brush lifetime. A minimum of moving parts means low maintenance. The Lely Luna cow brush has spirally positioned bristles of variable thickness for maximum comfort.

Once installed, it’s important to regularly check the Lely Luna cow brush to ensure an optimal lifetime.

A weekly check is recommended:

  • Make sure the brush is clean and free of damage
  • When the diameter of the brush is less than 30 cm (12 inches), it should be replaced
  • Make sure ventilation openings in the motor housing are clear and clean
  • Examine the gearbox for oil leaks

The Lely Luna cow brush is delivered as one part and can easily be installed on a post or against the wall.

For a limited time, Lely is giving away Lely Luna cow brushes. Register for your chance to win today at

See more on the Lely Luna Cow Brush in this video at Sweet Farms.

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Lely Named Most Innovative Company by Des Moines Area Community College


Photo: L-R: Chad Huyser, VP of North America; Jerry Bacon, Director of Finance and Administration; Mary Lowe, Senior HR Generalist and Chris Lang, Financial Controller.

Lely North America (Lely NA) was named the Most Innovative Company during the fourth annual Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) Business Awards held recently at DMACC’s Ankeny campus.

Lely was recognized for being a cutting-edge company and developing a unique approach, product, or service resulting in a strategic advantage in the marketplace.

“Lely is honored to be recognized by DMACC,” said Chad Huyser, Vice President with Lely North America. “Our company is proud to be the world leader in robotic milking and feeding systems and to have our North American headquarters in Pella. We provide state-of-the-art farming solutions that improve the efficiency and productivity of dairy producers. Lely’s years of practical experience and research help provide accurate management advice for successful automated dairies.”

The DMACC Business Awards celebrates the achievements of businesses and their economic impact on the Central Iowa economy. DMACC President Rob Denson and Vada Grantham, chair of DMACC’s Entrepreneurship Program, shared the stage with Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate in presenting the awards. The event was attended by 150 people.

Lely North America has been headquartered in Pella, Iowa, since 2004 but, in 2012, expanded its facilities in order to significantly increase Lely’s production capacity in the North American market. The nearly 40,000-square-foot production and office facility is dedicated to the production and support of Lely’s line of robotic milking equipment, including the Astronaut robotic milking system, as well as Lely’s complete line of feed and animal care products. Lely’s international headquarters and production facilities are located in Maassluis, Holland.



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Join the Lely North America Team

Lely North America has the following open positions:
Senior FMS Advisor – Midwest Region
Technical Service and Support

For more information on these positions please feel free to click on one of them or navigate to the Careers tab at the top of the page.

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Lely Honors Scholarship Winners

Lely recognizes two more recipients of the Lely North America 2016 Future of Dairy Scholarship Program who were each awarded a one-year, $1,000 scholarship.

sara_roerick-headshotSara Roerick of Upsala, Minnesota, is in her second year of veterinary medicine at the University of Minnesota. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in animal science at the University of Minnesota in 2015 and has worked on her family’s dairy operation and completed several internships in the ag industry. Roerick has been active in 4-H along with many other activities and honors.

To qualify, students had to submit an essay response to the question, “How will automated milking and feeding equipment impact the future of the dairy industry?”

In her essay, Roerick wrote:

Robotic milking and feeding equipment truly has been a game changer for the dairy industry. Not only can the equipment help reduce the labor required for each individual animal, it provides more information for farmers than they have ever had, allowing them to monitor and manage their cows more effectively by using their time more efficiently. In today’s world, this can appeal to the younger generation of farmers who demand more and more information by the touch of a finger. The information can allow them to monitor the health and productivity of their animals, in turn helping them to catch and treat sick animals sooner, detect heat cycles more adequately for a better reproductive cow, monitor conductivity/quality of milk from individual cows every day, and the list can go on from there. Instead of spending time in the barn milking cows with a parlor or stanchion milking system, time can now be spend managing cows better in other areas.

Congratulations to Roerick.

brown-swissAnother scholarship recipient is Chelsea Schossow of Ridgeway, Minnesota, who is majoring in dairy producation at South Dakota State University. She has worked on her family’s dairy operation and completed several internships in the agricultural industry. In addition, Schossow has been active in 4-H and FFA for many years along with many other activities and honors.

In her essay, Schossow wrote:

Dairy farming has always been an around-the-clock job. With robotic milking, the same is true yet in a slightly different aspect. Dairy farmers no longer are up at the crack of dawn, nor are they staying up well past the setting of the sun. Instead, robotic milking has allowed farmers the privilege of spending more time with their families and becoming more active in the community. Dairies that use these milking and feeding technologies have been beneficial to boosting consumer confidence. Many of the farmers serve on regional boards such as the Farm Bureau and their respective milk co-ops, aiming to help raise awareness of how important dairy farms and dairy foods are. Also, many robotic dairies are at the top of the charts for farm tours.

Congratulations to all of the 2016 scholarship winners!

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Lely Highlights Two More U.S. Scholarship Winners

We want to highlight two more recipients of the Lely North America 2016 Future of Dairy Scholarship Program.

Mariah Schmitt of Ft. Atkinson, Iowa, is a recipient who is majoring in dairy science and agriculture & society at Iowa State University. She has worked on her family’s dairy operation and completed several internships in the agricultural industry. In addition, Schmitt has been Iowa dairy princess and was active in 4-H and FFA for many years along with many other activities and honors.

In an essay response to the question, “How will automated milking and feeding equipment impact the future of the dairy industry?” Schmitt creatively added her take on Paul Harvey’s “So God made a farmer,” speech. She wrote:

And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker,” so God made a Farmer. God said, “I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper, then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board,” so God made a Farmer.

But most people don’t know, the story continues. “And on the 9th day, God said, “I need a tool to help farmers feed every mouth on this paradise,” so God made Lely robots. Thus, the possibility for a sustainable, profitable and enjoyable future in farming was established.

It takes innovators in agriculture to meet the demands of three groups of people: the consumers, the farmers and the cows. Thanks to automated milking and feeding systems, all these needs can be met in a sustainable way.

We’ve heard the statistics, it’s been instilled in our brains. By 2050 there will be over 9 billion mouths to feed, and this deadline is approaching fast. As the middle class is expanding, they’re demanding more protein. This is both a challenge and an opportunity for dairy farmers across the globe. Thanks to the innovation and technology available, we will be able to meet these demands. Incorporating this technology makes dairy cows more efficient and profitable, allowing them to produce more milk than ever before, thus helping close the nutrition gap.

Congratulations Mariah!

travis-koester-2Another scholarship recipient is Travis Koester of Wadesville, IN, who is majoring in agricultural business at Purdue University. He has served as a herd assistant for Koester Brothers Farms, which has a 200-cow automated milking dairy. He also assists with corn, soybean and wheat production and plans to be involved in his family farm as he pursues a career in agriculture.

In his essay Koester wrote:

First, it is important to understand how automated milkers have recently influenced my life. Formerly, we milked two-hundred cows in a time consuming, double sixteen, parabone swing parlor. I remember missing weddings, gatherings, and activities. Fast forward four years. After implementing automated milkers, I am extensively involved in 4-H, FFA, and school. Not only has it provided more freedom for cows, but I have especially appreciated more freedom for myself allowing me to better serve my community and develop leadership skills. I balance my activities with being a herd assistant taking care of the evening shift as well as being placed on call while not in school. Furthermore, I have provided tours to government officials, schools, community organizations, and neighbors. Visitors are amazed by the technology, but quickly realize the benefits truly exist in the computer reports. For example, we have become better managers as the sick cow and detecting heat probability reports have impacted our bottom-line.


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