Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Robot Dairy- Week One!

We made it!
Yes, I know its only been one week but you need to celebrate small victories, right?
Actually, the week went amazingly well!
"Better than expected" is what I would like to say but honestly, we had NO idea what to expect!
All we know is that the cows are loving it!
The best indicator is their milk production. If you want to know if a cow is happy, stressed, comfortable, sick, healthy, if she's eating right- you look at how much milk she makes that day. Our cows have been averaging around 85 lbs of milk every day for the last few years.
The average pounds of milk for today at SwissLane 2 (Robot Dairy) was 102 lbs!!
Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App
It took about 8 hours to haul all 350 cows from SwissLane 1- only 8 at a time.

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App
This was the first cow milked last Tuesday.

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App
Cows are creatures of habit to the tenth degree. Anything new is such a big deal for them! So, a new barn AND being milked by a ROBOT was a lot for them to take in. We had a crew of 16 people (4 at each robot) for the first day to help usher the cows into the robot to be milked. They were so hesitant!

For the first milking, the Robot had to be trained too!
Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App
We had to sanitize the udder
Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App
enter the cows ear tag number and steer it so it could find the teats.
Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

The robots scan the cows ear tags so each time she comes in it will remember the shape of her udder and teat placement then it will automatically sanitize and place the milker on the udder. (If you look closely at the picture above you can see the laser on the udder.)
One of the incentives to get the cows into the robot- besides having a full udder- is they get a little treat to eat while being milked. There is a little trough in the robot and it will dump a certain amount of grain in there depending on how much milk she gives and how many times she is milked that day.
Some of them have to be limited on how many times they get milked because they will just come in to have a snack so the robot just kicks them out!

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App
It is just amazing how much information we have access to! We can tell which quarter of the cows udder produces the most or how much she weighs at each milking. We can even track how often a cow is chewing her cud!

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App
High quality milk is the most important thing on our dairy farm. The robot uses a laser to scan the milk to check for inconsistencies and color. If it senses bad quality milk it will dump the milk and alert the herd manager.

It is so fun to watch the cows enjoying their new back rub brushes! Merry Christmas girls!
Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

The most amazing thing that I've seen this week had nothing to do with the robots though....
Over this past week there were 52 people who came to help us with this monumental endeavor. I was overwhelmed by the support from the farming community, our family, and friends. We are so blessed.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Is teaching kids work ethic going to be against the law?

I just submitted my comments to the US Department of Labor(USDOL) about the proposed changes to Child Labor on farms. You have until Dec. 1st 11:59pm. Follow this link the Document Type is Proposed Rule and I'D is 1235-AA06 to submit your own comments.

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App
This is my night-time calf feeding crew practicing for the 4-H fair this summer. My kids, my neice, and cousins. If the USDOL changes go into effect, this kind of picture faces extinction.
The porposed changes would effect our family farm because we are in a partnership and there is not just one sole owner.

Here is what I had to say:

I am a 4th generation dairy farmer and mother to 3 children. I am deeply concerned with the proposed changes to the Child Labor Laws as they pertain to farms.
Currently, we have 38 employees and 19 people from our family work on the farm 8 of those would be effected by these rules.
Since 1915 our family has been built on the value of hard work. This work ethic has been passed down through the generations by children working side by side their parents and grandparents. We understand the importance of farm safety and make it a priority. Safety is something that is practiced on a daily basis and becomes natural. It is not something that just happens because a child has a birthday. Working as a family also passes down a deep commitment and understanding of the importance of being a steward of our land, animals, and natural resources. Children taught at an early age have a true appreciation for agriculture that will spark a passion for providing others with food and fiber.
I understand that my children will still be allowed to participate in some aspects of the farm but at a much different level than they currently do. Giving the children incentive to work by receiving a paycheck is not only rewarding them but also giving them an opportunity to learn to manage money. This is something that most of society and even our own government needs some practice at.
Making such broad and over-reaching changes to the way our family runs our business is going to put our family farm's legacy in jeopardy.
Thank you,
Anna Link
SwissLane Dairy