The Schelling family in northwest Iowa has been milking cows since the 1950s. Marv Schelling’s parents started milking cows by hand until they built a parlor themselves. Over the years, the operation has grown and evolved. In the mid-1970s, the Schellings built a free-stall barn which held around 200 cows and added a double-four herringbone parlor. In 1991, they updated to a double-nine parallel parlor.
Today, Schelling Dairy Farm is run by Marv and his wife Kathy and their sons and families. As the sons grew up and wanted to join the farm, the family decided to update the milking facilities again.
“We have always been a family farm without outside employees, so we decided to go robotic to remain a family-run farm with no employees.”
The Schellings worked with Gorter’s Clay and Dairy of Minnesota, Inc., to install four Lely Astronaut A5 robotic milking systems. The robot facility has 240 free stalls for lactating cows.
“The dry cows are also housed in the same barn, so once they come into the barn, they never have to leave this barn,” Marv said.
Marv appreciates the data they receive on each cow with their identification system that is part of the Lely robots. This provides a real-time overview of each cow in terms of rumination, milk yield, lactation status and history.
“After calves are born, they are brought to our calf barn within the first 24 hours, where they are fed powdered milk replacer and free choice feed and water,” Marv said. “We raise our own heifers, and the steers are sold as feeders. The calves are weaned at 60 days old and then are moved through various pens on our farm until they are two months from calving, when they are moved into the robot barn to calve.”
The cows are fed once a day with a partial mixed ration of a mineral and protein base and nova meal, haylage and corn silage, which is balanced by their nutritionist and fed with a mixer wagon.
“We feed a pellet and flaked soybeans through the robot. The amount of feed the cows get in the robot is based on what stage of lactation each individual cow is in and how much milk they are giving,” Marv said. “The robots adjust the amount for each cow automatically based upon the feed tables that we enter in the computer. We grow 300 acres of corn and 60 acres of alfalfa which is all used for feed and we buy the rest of what is needed each year.”
Lely Discovery 120 Collectors keep it clean
In addition, the Schellings have five Lely Discovery 120 Collector mobile barn cleaners. Each one runs its own designated route every hour, 24 hours a day.
The Lely Discoveries collect manure and vacuum it up. They have a watery-spray function option to add to manure if needed to keep the manure the right consistency to vacuum properly.
Marv said, “At the end of each route they return to their own charging station and dump around 75 gallons of manure into the manure channel, which free flows into a small day pit where the manure is agitated and pumped to the 6-million-gallon storage lagoon.”
The Lely Discovery Collector not only makes for a cleaner floor, it also ensures cows’ hooves remain cleaner. This improves both cow health and the well-being of the animals.