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[Podcast] Anna Hinchley: Designing her own robot barn

Progressive Dairy Published on 04 August 2020

In this episode, we hear from 22-year-old dairy farmer Anna Hinchley. Her desire to return to her family’s dairy in Cambridge, Wisconsin, after graduating prompted her parents to move forward with expanding the herd and upgrading to automated milking. Anna has been involved in every step of the barn design process. Hear about the key features of her robot barn here.

I’m here today with Anna Hinchley at Hinchley’s Dairy Farm near Cambridge, Wisconsin. 

Anna is a recent graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and she has now returned to the farm to officially begin her career as a dairy farmer. 

But she won’t be milking 140 cows in a 7-cow tie-stall barn like the days of her youth. The Hinchleys constructed an automated milking facility last year with four robots to handle around 240 milking cows. 

Anna was very involved in the design and layout of the facility that she now works in every day.

She is going to give us a deep-dive into the details of this barn design and how it not only leverages efficiency and technology, but also lends to the Hinchley’s long-time agritourism business.

With that, let’s hear from Anna.



Here is a breakdown of the episode:

  1. (1:20) For our listeners, give us an “audio tour” of your farm (who from your family is involved, how many cows, describe facilities, do you keep all youngstock onsite?)
  2. (3:20) Let’s break it down. Describe:
    1. (4:25) Pen layout
    2. (5:20) Tell us about constraints in the placement of this new facility.
    3. (6:00) Why did you choose two robots in each of the two pen?
    4. (8:05) As far as trouble-shooting the Discovery, is there a common problem if it keeps getting lost?
    5. (9:10) How has automation changed your life?
    6. (9:40) Walk us through the aspects of your stall design.
    7. (12:30) Tell us about the ventilation setup.
    8. (13:10) Where are footbaths located, and how did you determine placement?
    9. (14:45) How do you treat cows or address special needs?
    10. (17:00) How did you set up the feed alleys and walkways for efficiency?
    11. (18:00) After building the robot bar, did you retire the old tie-stall barn?
  3. (19:20) Are there any aspects of the barn we haven’t covered that you would like to call out?
  4. (20:30) Your family’s farm has been involved in agritourism for many years. How did you gear your design to be visitor-friendly?
  5. (21:35) What are the most common questions you get during tours?
  6. (22:30) What is the smartest design aspect you included when building this new facility?
  7. (24:10) With your education and skill set, you could have easily found an industry job with corporate perks and few hours. Why did you choose to come back to the farm?
  8. (25:00) Where do you see yourself and the farm 10 years from now?
  9. (26:10) Where do you see the agritourism business going?
  10. (26:30) How did COVID-19 change your view on wanting to milk 500 cows?
  11. (28:35) Who are the thought leaders you follow on social media?
  12. (29:30) If you could have a half-hour with any leader in the dairy industry, past or present, who would it be and why?
  13. (31:15) If you could give a young person some advice on what do with their goals and dreams, what’s the one nugget you would offer them?


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