How good can milking robots be? Just ask Pete Postma and Sons Dairies, LP, based in Modesta, California. Currently milking 1,900 Holstein and Jersey purebred cows, the Postmas decided to build a new barn and transition to Lely robots in two phases.
Working with Turlock Dairy and Refrigeration, Inc., (TDR), the Lely Center based in Turlock, California, Pete Postma and Sons Dairies have installed five Lely Astronaut A4 automatic milking systems so far and have plans to install five more.
Postma Dairies are owned and managed by Pete Postma and his sons, Jonathon and Jack Postma. Pete serves as an advisor and mentor while helping on the farm. Jonathon Postma serves as a manager, focusing on cows and dairy operations. Jack focuses primarily on production crops, although the brothers share responsibilities across the farm.
The Postmas began looking into Lely robotics after they began considering remodeling or building a new barn. They discussed their ideas with representatives of TDR and began to look at dairy robotics more closely. The Postmas toured many Lely operations and spoke with both owners and staff about the benefits of Lely automated equipment. All of the partners took an active role in the decision process.
“When I visited the first robotic dairy farm, I was amazed,” Jonathon Postma said. “You think to yourself, ‘there is no way the robotics can be that good,’ but when you see it and talk to the owners, you realize how good the robots work, how much data is collected about each cow and how efficient the operation is. Cow comfort is what sold me. The less stress on the cows, the happier and more productive they are. That is what did it for me.”
In addition to Lely dairies, the Postmas toured conventional operations and other robotic options. They had a checklist that served as a scorecard in their decision process.
“When we looked at other brands of automated milking equipment, I was even more convinced Lely was the right company because of its relentless desire to build a better product for the benefit of the cow and the dairy producer,” Jonathon Postma said. The Lely support team and knowledge exceeded that of other brands. I’ve got confidence in Lely’s ability to support us.”
The cost of inputs, California regulations and the labor market have been challenges for the Postmas. Because of this, they are looking to redirect their time away from employee recruiting and training in order to maximize staff abilities, manage the farm enterprise and optimize the herd. Milking robots, though an investment, can quickly pay for themselves through labor savings and increased production.
“We feel the addition of Lely robots will help us decrease the cost of operations and help us pay off the new barn more quickly,” Jonathon Postma said. “In addition, we hope to decrease the stress on cows and increase production. I look forward to having more time to focus on the cows.”
TDR helped answer any questions the Postmas had and supported their decision processes.
“We’ve been in contact with TDR for the past three to five years,” Jonathon Postma said. “They have connected us with Lely owners and Lely representatives so we could see existing Lely automated dairies and talk to people face-to-face. Our mission statement is, ‘maintain sound management and husbandry practices to secure the well-being for current and future generations. We are looking forward to a smooth transition to robotic dairy operations, focusing on becoming better business people and building something for the next generation.”