Here is the story of how a used robot and a strong partnership with a Lely Center led to a family dairy becoming one of the top performing Lely operations in North America.
Village View Farm in Argyle, Wisconsin, was founded in 1964 by Martin and Barb Makos. Today it is owned and operated by their son Kevin and his wife RaeAnn Makos and their sons, Cole and Kory. Originally milking in a two-story stanchion barn, Kevin and RaeAnn were looking for ways to free up more of their time and adapt to a growing herd. “The main reason for switching to robots was to get some free time for our family. We have never hired outside help and I wasn’t going to spend the rest of my life in that tiestall barn,” said Kevin of the experience.
Kevin and RaeAnn purchased the farm from Kevin’s parents in 2012 and with assistance from their local Lely Center (LC), LC Monroe, they built a new 66’ x 150’ freestall barn in 2014. One of the unique features of their new barn was a used Lely Astronaut A3 robot milking system. Having already been in use for a number of years, the milking robot allowed Kevin and RaeAnn to get a foothold in the field of robotic milking that would eventually lead to a barn full of robotic solutions.
“I was also wanting to get a better environment for the cows, so we designed a freestall barn with a robot. When we priced out new, the price tags for everything were a little overwhelming. I also was hoping to go with just one robot, so I thought if I could find a used one, it would be easier to pay for. Luckily, I was able to find an A3 that had only been in use for a couple of years. That worked out great for us as we used it for seven years before upgrading.”
The milking robot was reconditioned by the team at LC Monroe who also took the time to train the Makos family on its operation and care. Discussing the process, LC Monroe Operations Manager Justin Segner said, “Lely equipment is engineered to last for many years of continuous operation, and it can be easily reconditioned for many more years of service. Make sure your Lely dealer is aware of your intentions so they can support you and help you with the design and purchase if necessary.”
The choice quickly proved its worth with improvement in milk per cow, milk solids, somatic cell count and, perhaps most importantly, free time. “This has been a good deal,” Kevin said of the experience with Lely robotic systems. “I don’t have any regrets at all.”
Following the demonstrated success and continued smooth operation of the used milking robot, in 2021 the Makoses decided the features of the new Lely Astronaut A5 robotic milking system were worth the upgrade and installed a new unit alongside a Lely Juno automatic feed pusher and a Lely Luna cow brush. With their new stable of robots, Village View farm is consistently in the top 15 producing Lely dairies in North America.
When asked what he would tell someone interested in exploring a switch to robotic milking with Lely, Kevin replied, “Don’t be afraid of used. Lely robots are well built to last many years.”