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.
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.