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Innovation Dairy Tour showcases Michigan’s technology

Ashley Messing-Kennedy Published on 30 October 2013


On the recent Innovation Dairy Tour, GEA Farm Technologies showed just how cutting-edge the technology available to today’s producers is. Dairy producers from across the country witnessed a range of high-tech equipment ranging from tools for calf management to the latest in parlor equipment.



The first stop of the two-day tour was Gingrich Meadows Dairy in Leroy, Michigan, where the Martin family milks 320 cows with two MIone four-box robotic milking systems.

When at full capacity, they will be able to milk 450 cows with the robots; the farm is growing internally to full capacity.

See the photo slideshow to view even more images from the tour. Story continues below slideshow.

Amy Martin, one of the two sibling owners, said they have increased the number of cows they are milking because of the robots and still cut the labor they had employed in half.


Martin said, “We are able to keep employees longer, and they don’t get wore out [like before in the parlor].”


Being able to keep employees happy and around for a longer time has become a big advantage for the farm.

Martin said they have noticed major improvements in reproduction on their farm.

The cows show more physical heats, and their pregnancy rate has become more consistent.

The next stop of the day was to Hillhaven Farms in Edmore, Michigan. Owner Mike Rasmussen updated his parlor to the Apollo MilkSystem and the FutureCow prep system in the last year.

The 750-cow farm has seen more efficiency in the double-16 stall parlor thanks to these two tools. Hillhaven Farms has cut their parlor labor in half to just one person.

The FutureCow prep system allows Hillhaven Farms to have a consistent procedure in place, regardless of who is prepping the cows.


The handheld mechanical brush unit washes, disinfects, stimulates and dries each cow the same each time.


There was a learning curve to the system, Rasmussen said. He reported that the unit is heavy.

For the first few days of using it, the employees said they were sore and it was hard to use it an entire shift.

But after the first two days, it became easier and they adapted to it.

Training was minimal because to wash and disinfect the cows, an employee just holds the button on the unit.

To dry, they just let off the button and insert the teat between the brushes.

The Apollo MilkSystem then post-dips each cow consistently and automatically without the help of an employee. Teat dip is injected through the top of the liner before the unit is removed from the cow.

After the milking unit is removed, it is back-flushed and cleaned with a sanitizing solution. This neutralizes any bacteria that might be on the liners from the previous cow in addition to cleaning any post-dip that might be left in the liner.

This kind of technology allows for more efficient employee use in the parlor as well as a more consistent job all around.

Rasmussen said, “So far, the system is working well. The dip coverage has been good. Employee acceptance has been hard, but it is growing now.”

The last stop for the first day of the tour was to Son Rise Farm in Westphalia, Michigan. This heifer-raising facility is owned and operated by John and Debbie Feldpausch.

The Feldpausch family raises 350 calves on GEA DairyFeed automated calf feeders but will have up to 550 total calves on milk at once. The family also uses a UV Pure, an ultraviolet milk purifier to process waste milk that they collect daily from their clients’ farms.

John and Debbie said the purifier was an upgrade to their old heat pasteurizer. When they started using the new one, they did a side-by-side test and found that the UV purifier did a better job of sterilizing the milk.

The Feldpausches pulled samples of pasteurized milk from each unit and had them tested for bacteria growth, finding there was less growth with the UV purifier.

The Feldpausch family believes that being able to raise a big, robust calf gives their clients the best return on their investment.


The second day of the tour started by showing attendees one of the best examples of the advancements in dairy technology at Vanderploeg Holsteins in Ithaca, Michigan.

The Vanderploeg family of Klaus, Mares and Tony recently installed a 72-stall C10 AutoRotor Performer rotary milking parlor.

This rotary parlor was designed with large dairies in mind.

A parlor milking 24 hours a day presents many challenges when it comes to maintaining the system. Breakdowns can also be a costly and problematic situation.

The entire system is made with service and durability in mind. The moving parts are easily accessible and interchangeable for when that situation may arise. Any part that may find itself broken can be quickly accessed.

The final stop of the tour was at Rich Ro Colony in St. John’s, Michigan. The 2,750-cow farm owned by Glenn and Brett Feldpausch uses the FutureCow prep system as well. The farm has a 160,000 average somatic cell count, and they have been using the mechanical brush unit for five years.

The ability to have a consistent and thorough cow prep routine has allowed Rich Ro Colony to produce high-quality milk day in and day out for years. PD

Ashley Messing-Kennedy is a freelance writer and a dairy producer in Bad Axe, Michigan.

Dairy producers from across the U.S. saw a variety of new technologies and management strategies on the recent Dairy Innovation Tour.

TOP RIGHT: Rich Ro Colony in St. John’s, Michigan, utilizes prep timers in the parlor for maximum efficiency. When the employee starts prepping the first cow in the section, he or she presses the button and the 120 seconds starts counting down.

TOP MIDDLE RIGHT: Gingrich Meadows Dairy in Leroy, Michigan, plans to grow their herd internally to 450, growth that is possible with less labor because of their four-box robotic milking system.

BOTTOM MIDDLE RIGHT: An employee at Hillhaven Farms in Edmore, Michigan, operates a teat-scrubbing system that washes, disinfects, dries and stimulates the teats in the parlor.

BOTTOM RIGHT: The Vanderploeg family of Ithaca, Michigan, recently installed a 72-stall rotary parlor that was designed to offer accessibility for easy maintenance and optimal parlor throughput. Photos courtesy of Ashley Messing-Kennedy.