Robots help Orford couple earn Dairy Farm of Year honors

Posted by Team Lely on Jul 23, 2015
Team Lely

John Koziol with Union Leader Correspondent writes about the Tullars of New Hampshire. Read an excerpt below or the entire article here.

For working hard to make their cows happy, productive and comfortable, Karen and Rendell Tullar were recently honored for having the best dairy farm in New Hampshire.

And they have some robots to thank.

The Tullars operate the Tullando Farm on the Daniel Webster Highway, along the Connecticut River, where they have 500 milking cows, all Holsteins. On a 1,500-acre spread they also cultivate 400 acres of corn, 100 acres of alfalfa and 100 acres of grass to keep the bovines fed.

In a first for the Granite State, the cows are milked several times a day by one of the eight Lely Astronaut A4 robots that were installed at Tullando last June, which is when the cows also got a brand new 10,000-square-foot barn.

Rendell Tullar says the robots represent the continuing evolution of the farm, which was founded in 1956 by his parents, George Tullar and the former Barbara Anderson,w and whose name is a combination of theirs. A robot costs about $200,000, for a unit that can milk 55 to 70 cows, according to a 2013 Modern Farmer article.

Years ago, George and Barbara Tullar were honored by the New England Dairy Promotion Board with the New Hampshire Green Pastures Award, also known as the Dairy Farm of the Year Award, which was started in 1947 to recognize one outstanding dairy farm in each of the six New England states.

Winners are evaluated on production records; herd, pasture and crop management; environmental practices; contributions to agriculture and the local community; and overall excellence in dairying.

Now, the award has gone to a second generation of Tullars, and Rendell Tullar hopes that the pattern of success will continue when his children and even his grandchildren begin running Tullando.

“I think it’s a great honor,” Tullar said of the NH Green Pastures Award, which in 2014 was presented to the Forbes Farm in Lancaster. “Some really good farms have received this in the past. My parents received it, and it’s kind of nice,” added Tullar, to have it remain in the family, so to speak.

The Lely robots use a laser to first position an arm outfitted with a sprayer and two rotating horizontal brushes to wet and clean each of a cow’s teats and then to precisely line up pulsating suction pump over the teat.

They are changing the way Tullando does dairy farming for the better, Tullar said, and will gradually help increase the amount of milk that the Tullando cows produce. But they’ve already forever changed the way cows are milked.

Each robot is available 24-7, so when a cow wants to be milked, it no longer has to wait for a human being. That development means that the Tullars are adapting to what Rendell Tullar called “a real learning curve,” in that neither he nor his wife have to spend between 13 and 15 hours a day in a milking parlor.

As hoped, the Lely robots are giving the Tullars more time to spend with their three children and six grandchildren, who, along with Rendell’s four siblings, all help out at Tullando, albeit to varying degrees.

“One of the big things on my agenda was to make it (dairy farming) attractive to the next generation,” Tullar said, adding “my dad and mum” who both passed away in 2014, “did it for me.”

UNH Cooperative Extension agent Michal Lunak, who is also the state’s dairy specialist, said the Tullando Farm was well deserving of the 2015 Dairy Farm of the Year Award.

He noted that going back to Barbara and George Tullar, the farm has “always been open to changes, especially changes in new technology and efficiency.”

“Tullando Farm is a great representative of the New Hampshire dairy industry,” Lunak summed up. “They maintain a neat, clean, very progressive and efficient operation, and take great pride in the work that they do.”

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