Large Manitoba Dairy Relies on Lely Robotic Milking for Efficiency

Posted by Team Lely on Aug 11, 2021
Team Lely

Tucked away in Manitoba, not far from the border of North Dakota, Anton Borst continues to cultivate a large, sustainable dairy operation.

A Family Automated Dairy Farm

Anton Borst and the rest of the team at Halarda Farms Ltd. are responsible for more than 1,200 head of dairy cows, a small herd of beef cattle and 4,500 acres of cropland. Anton has 17 full-time employees, along with a legion of his children, nieces and nephews, and a few local students for good measure. 

A crucial component to the success of Halarda Farms Ltd. is its fleet of 20 Lely Astronaut A5 robotic milking systems.

The newest robotic members of Anton’s milking team were acquired in 2019. But he has relied on help from Lely robots since he acquired eight Lely Astronaut A3 models in 2009.

Anton has updated his fleet in bits and pieces ever since, even using a pair of loaner Lely Astronaut A4 robots in 2018. But the Lely Astronaut A5s have proven particularly effective, according to Anton.

“We are very happy with the performance of the Lely Astronaut A5s. They are capable of producing over 100 kg on average per A5 and some pens are over 125 kg per machine!” he said.

Anton Borst and his wife looking at data on the Lely Astronaut A5 robotic milking system

Local Lely Center, Penner Farm Services, has worked closely with the team at Halarda Farms Ltd. since the beginning of their robotic milking journey.

"We've been customers of Penner Farm Services since 2008 when we built the first robot barn," Anton said. "Three descriptive words I would use for Penner are knowledgeable, dependable and invested. They're invested in the same industry, they know it and they're there when we need them. They've got some really good people working for them."

Lely Robot Barn Designs Maximize Efficiency

While the climate generally trends toward cooler weather in Manitoba, Halarda Farms Ltd. must contend with occasional weather extremes. It’s not uncommon to see temperatures of -20°F in winter and up to 95°F in the summer. Fortunately, the buildings at Halarda Farms Ltd. were designed to be versatile.

“All our barns are tunnel-ventilated or cross-ventilated,” Anton said. “We do not see any changes in production in any of the seasons because of the way our barns are built.”

The barns are also all connected, “which is actually really nice for how we manage the herd,” he added. 

Cows at the feed fence

Halarda Farms Ltd. utilizes two different robot configurations in its two barns. The first lactation heifers are grouped into four separate pens that each have robots in the head-to-tail design. The older milking cows are grouped into four pens of three robots that have the tollbooth layout. Of the two designs, the tollbooth arrangement has proven to have the most benefits for Anton’s operation, including low refusal rates and fetches.

“Cows exit the robot and do not have immediate access back to that robot or another robot,” Anton said. “It’s more efficient in our opinion because you get less competition and you get better cow flow.”

A Lely Robot Menagerie 

In addition to the Lely Astronaut A5s, Halarda Farms Ltd. uses a variety of Lely robots to aid operations. The farm employs five Lely Juno automatic feed pushers, a pair of Lely Cosmix concentrate feeders and 21 Lely Grazeway selection boxes. The team also has utilized the concentrate feeders to pre-train heifers for robotic milking, and has noticed significantly smoother transitions as a result. The Lely Grazeway, meanwhile, helps the team automatically sort cows for hoof treatments, vaccinations, inseminations and more.

Lely Juno automatic feed pusher

Halarda Farm Ltd.’s average production per cow per day is currently 39 kg (86 lbs) at 4.00% fat and 3.27% protein. His cows average 2.9 robot visits and average milk speed is about 3.4 kg (7.5 lbs). Halarda Farms Ltd. has achieved a high standard of efficiency with Lely robots, and looks forward to continuing to grow as a member of Lely’s Red Cow Community.

"Lely robots have really brought us a long way in our production levels and also with what we could manage with the people that we have," Anton said. "It's also made Halarda Farms a better place to work. Having this technology has been really popular with the staff."

Whether you're building a new barn or retrofitting an existing structure, deciding on the proper robot layout is a critical process. With more than 25 years' experience with dairy automation, the Lely Dairy XL team understands how best to incorporate dairy robotics into your business. Click below to learn more about the top five barn designs for Lely robotic milking:

Discover the Top 5 Barn Designs

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Tags: Lely, Lely Astronaut, Lely Center, Lely Cosmix