The Westendorps of Nashville, Michigan, are a family of dairy enthusiasts who work together on the family-run Westvale-View Dairy and MOO-ville Creamery. Milking with Lely robots since 2012, dairy automation has given the Westendorps more flexibility to significantly grow their successful creamery business. The team recently upgraded to Lely Astronaut A5s in the spring of 2020, and look forward to the long-term benefits the latest in robotic milking technology will provide their dairy. Read on to learn how Lely robots have positively impacted the Westendorps, and why their recent robot upgrade was one of the best decisions they ever made.
Family of Dairy Enthusiasts
Doug and Louisa Westendorp moved to Westvale-View Dairy's current location in 1991 with six children who were all under the age of six at the time. In 2005, they built MOO-ville Creamery, and all six Westendorp children have grown up to become full-time employees for the family business. In the early 2010s, the team was looking for a new system to replace their 40-year-old parlor, with the intention to expand in order to support their growing creamery business. Originally considering a larger parlor, the Westendorps visited the Lely robot barn at Swiss Lane Farms, and their plans started taking a different direction. After touring 20 robot barns throughout the country, the Westendorps saw that Lely robots would give their dairy the cow comfort and flexibility they were looking for.
Having worked closely with Hi-Tech Dairy Supply, Inc. throughout the decision-making process, the Westendorps installed four Lely Astronaut A4 robotic milking systems in Westvale-View Dairy's new barn in 2012. With this new facility, the Westendorps were able to expand their herd from 90 to 220 cows. Even though the team more than doubled their herd size, the Lely robots allowed them to maintain the same number of workers in the dairy barn. Two of the Westendorp brothers are now the only full-time employees at the dairy, with just a few other part-time hired hands on staff.
The six-row free stall barn includes four pens total with one robot apiece, as well as a center feed alley. The sand-bedded stalls on one half of the barn are four inches longer than the other to accommodate the dairy's more mature cows. The robot barn is only 500 feet away from MOO-ville Creamery and the milk is gravity fed into the creamery. The Westendorps truly painted their barn red with Lely solutions, and also have four Lely Luna cow brushes and one Lely Juno automatic feed pusher. The cows are fed at 6:00 a.m. and the Lely Juno pushes feed every three hours starting at noon throughout the day, and every hour and a half from midnight to 6:00 a.m. This allows the herd to have plenty of feed in front of them 24/7, and enhances overall feed efficiency and staff flexibility.
|The barn layout of Westvale-View Dairy.|
Upgrading to Lely Astronaut A5s with Excellent Lely Center Support
After seven successful years with the Lely Astronaut A4s, the Westendorps decided it was time for an upgrade. Four new Lely Astronaut A5s were installed in the spring of 2020, and the team can already see the long-term benefits these new robots will bring. The transition was simple, with the new milking robots fitting into the original layout. With the Lely Astronaut A5s, Westvale-View Dairy's average milk production is currently at 105 pounds per cow. The Westendorps will tell you that the Lely Astronaut A5s have taken their dairy to the next level, and that the upgrade was one of the best decisions they have ever made. The team has always prioritized milk quality, and the Lely MQC-C has proven to be the missing link when it comes to managing their herd's somatic cell count. The Lely Astronaut A5s have also proven to have high successful milking rates, with 0.8 failures per day.
The Westendorps have also truly appreciated the support they receive from their local Lely Center, Hi-Tech Dairy Supply, Inc.
"Hi-Tech is incredible - they're there for us whenever we need them," said Troy Westendorp.
Understanding every minute counts when it comes to robot uptime, the Hi-Tech Dairy Supply, Inc. team has come up with innovative methods to remotely support Westvale-View Dairy despite being over an hour away from the farm. The Lely Center's highly trained staff is able to quickly respond to any technical issues via phone or TeamViewer to ensure their customers' robots stay up and running. The Westendorps are very pleased with Hi-Tech Dairy Supply, Inc.'s ability to virtually support them, and have been trained by the Lely Center's team to handle many technical tasks themselves.
Lely Robots Enhance Milk Production and Staff Flexibility
The Westendorps' MOO-ville Creamery has significantly grown during the past 15 years, and now has four shops throughout Michigan and an additional distribution network taking their products to 200 wholesale accounts. The creamery is known for its delicious ice cream, but also produces milk, cheese and butter. The creamery continues to increase its output, and will be producing 100,000 gallons of ice cream. As all dairy producers know, running a dairy is more than a full-time job, forget about running a creamery as well. With Lely robots taking care of the milking at the dairy, members of the Westendorp family are able to split their time between both businesses.
"I'm a jack of all trades, and the Lely robots have definitely given me the flexibility to bounce back and forth between the creamery and the robot barn," said Troy.
The Westendorps also provide tours of their creamery and dairy, with about 10,000 visitors in 2019 alone. About 65% are school tours, and the Westendorps offer self-guided tours where visitors have the opportunity to walk through the barn and see the cows get milked with the Lely robots. Many have never been to a farm, and are amazed with the technology of the milking robots. Older individuals enjoy seeing the progress in technology from when they milked cows themselves.
The Westendorps love seeing their cows "living their best lives" with Lely robots, and look forward to the future with dairy automation.