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Building for the next seven generations

Progressive Dairyman Editor Peggy Coffeen Published on 18 July 2018

On behalf of Progressive Dairyman, we are pleased to bring you this issue of our magazine, with a special focus on new facilities and design.

From a layout for a robotic grazing system (6-robot bedded pack guided-flow facility with grazing access) to handy tips on maximizing cow comfort on a budget (3 tips for improving cow comfort without adding cost), there is a little something for all sizes and styles of dairying packed in these pages.



One of the highlights of this issue (Herrema Dairy runs 900 cows with 12 robots, three people) is an innovative design in Fair Oaks, Indiana, where 900 cows are under one roof, milked by a dozen robots and cared for by just three people. Herrema Dairy identifies reducing reliance on human labor as one of the strongest factors behind adopting automated technology.

Many other dairy farmers I talk to similarly acknowledge their building decisions are based on a long-term outlook. A barn built today is designed with the future in mind for the current generation to make a living and to set up the next for success.

Perhaps there is a blueprint to effortlessly double or triple in size, or to easily transform from traditional milk harvesting to robotic means in order to keep up with changing times.

Some people are naturally gifted with the ability to envision the future and make decisions based on a long-term outlook. Personally, I find it challenging to see past the here-and-now. My thoughts and prayers for the future focus on the tangible: my children and, once in a while, the grandchildren I will physically hold in my arms someday. But my planning usually stops there.

More recently, I’ve been thinking about the intangible – the flow of lineage that will carry on the Coffeen family name beyond the days I will be here on this earth to see.


The Oneida tribe of Wisconsin centers itself on the “seven generations” philosophy. It’s the belief that what is said and done today will affect the next seven generations. This idea governs business decisions with an eye on the future and sustainable growth.

Seven generations is roughly 200 years from now – or my great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren. That’s difficult to calculate, let alone think about. But I wonder, how many of us consider the Oneida philosophy in our everyday dealings and future planning? And how many of our ancestors thought about how their decisions would affect us two centuries later?

In my family, we can trace the generations back to those who got on a boat and left Ireland and Belgium in the mid-1800s. They likely were trying to save themselves from disease and famine or wanted a better life for their children. Maybe they even thought about the descendants they would never know.

Most likely, they chose farming as a means of survival, but just maybe they also had a passion in their heart for the land and the animals. And that same love is what has been handed down, one generation after the next, inspiring my grandparents and parents to choose it as their livelihoods. It’s even encouraged my siblings and I to choose careers in the dairy industry.

My Irish ancestors settled on our family farm. They laid a foundation of limestone and hand-hewed wooden beams to create a little red two-story barn. Several generations later, that barn my ancestors built is the barn that built me. Each stone and board their hands touched was the beginning of a legacy, whether they knew it or not.

So what are you building today, and how will it affect the next seven generations to come? Whether your materials are concrete and rebar or prayer and forward thought, how will the foundation you form underneath yourself today support the generations who will follow?


As you think about your next building project on the dairy, remember: You are not just building a barn. You are building the future for generations far beyond what you will ever live to see.  end mark

Peggy Coffeen
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