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0809 PD: Progressive Events

Karen Lee Published on 18 May 2009

On April 16-17, around 20 dairy producers from southern Wisconsin and Illinois visited five dairies to see new Lely robotic milking units in action. The tour, sponsored by Argall Dairy Systems of Belleville, Wisconsin, and Lely, stopped at dairies that had installed from one to four robots since September of 2008.

Those dairies included: Doug Heintz’s Badger Valley Farm in Caledonia, Minnesota; the Bauman family’s Hawktree Dairy in Buffalo Center, Iowa; Doug and Tina Suhr’s Zumbro Ridge Farms in Kasson, Minnesota; Keith Knutson’s Knutson Family Farms in Pine Island, Minnesota; and Greg and Dennis Hetrick’s Village Edge Farms in Nelson, Wisconsin.

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Each dairy installed one Lely Astronaut A3 robotic milking system for every 60 cows in its herd. Some of the farms were able to retrofit the systems into existing buildings while others built new facilities.

Cows are fed a custom pellet while being milked, the amount of which is customized per cow based on production. Most dairies then feed a partially-mixed ration (PMR) at the feedbunk. Doug Heintz says his PMR is balanced for a 60-pound milk average and includes balage, dry hay, corn silage and a distillers corn mix. “We can target cows that need more with the pellets,” he adds.

Pens are stocked based on how much the robot is working. (Each pen has its own robot.) Early lactation and late-lactation cows are mixed together to not overwork the machines with all high-producing cows in one group. PD

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