Dairy farm uses robots to milk cows

By: Frank Waugh Email
By: Frank Waugh Email

This four generation dairy farm with over 150 head of cattle is now home to three robots.

Norman Krathwohl, President of Norbert Farms, said, "My son-in-law came home all excited telling me how we should go with robots. And I told my son in-law, "It will never work, them cows can not be milked that way, because they would kick the daylights out of their milker." Well, he was right and I was wrong, so we have got them today and it is working."

Sixty-five years ago Norman and his wife milked their six cows by hand. Today these big red machines are doing what he once thought to be impossible. They are milking cows

Craig Coon of Kaeb Sales said, "The system that we have here is the Lely Astronaut A-3 Next, it is an automation that robotically milks cows."

Coon says a radio collar on each cow allows the robot to identify the cow and determine if she needs to be milked as soon as she steps into the stall.

"Right now the brushes are going up underneath the cow. We're going to clean the back teats and the front teats and it is going to do it twice. It is going to come back out here, spray the brushes and go back underneath her and clean," said Coon.

As soon as the cleaning is done, a set of lasers then guides the arm into place and the milking begins.

Coon said, "As the milk comes through it goes through the silicon hose. You can see it sucking through and it is going to go the receiver jar. Out of the receiver jar it is going to get pumped through the stainless steel line and go over to the bulk tank. "

The A-3 comes complete with a touch screen computer that tells you how much milk the cow has produced. Eventually all the information is sent upstairs where the herd can be monitored on a single screen.

“We have total milk production, how many pounds of milk per cow per day, how many milkings per cow per day, how many times she has been through the robot but it hasn't milked her because she is not ready to be milked yet,” explained Coon.

With these robots running 24 hours a day Norbert Farms hopes for increased production. They also enjoy the chance to sleep in a little bit.

Jennifer Freeman of Norbert Farms said, “The routine has changed a lot. My husband Monte and my brother Jeremy got up every morning at 2:30 doing the milking and grandpa was involved in that up until the recent years. That has now become more like 7:00 in the morning, 8:00 in the morning as far as it is more flexible.

Krathwohl said, “The whole system has worked real good for us since they put it in. It saves what used to take three to four hours to milk the other way. Night and morning, you had to be there. That has saved some time for us.”

Norman is not the only one surprised by these new additions to the family farm.

Freeman said, “I can still walk in there today and I look at them. It is still unbelievable to see them. Wow, a machine can milk this cow unassisted, all by itself and it just goes on 24/7.”

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