Dairy Robotics Pay Off for WNY Family Farm

No two farms are alike. And no two farms have the same goals. It’s sometimes like a puzzle … how are we going to expand this
farm in a logical manner that’s also not going to break the bank or put them in hock with the environmental regulatory agencies. My name is Tim Terry and I am the regional farm strategic planning specialist with the harvest New York
group. What that means is I work one-on-one with big farms, little
farms and everything in between on how they are going to grow their farmstead In other words trying to keep them economically and environmentally
sustainable We just completed a project at the end of last year … It was a small farm and it was destined to be another ag statistic The older generation was in
their 60s but they still felt they had a lot of time and energy left to
continue farming but not in the labor-intensive manner that they were doing it. We had an opportunity with some different grants that became available and we transitioned them into a brand-new state-of-the-art compost
bedded pack system with a robotic milker. My name is Lester York my wife’s name is
Cindy. The name of our farm is Whispering Winds farms organic dairy. The reason that we wanted to do a new facility here is that we had a facility that was built
1956 in a tie stall barn. My wife and I do most of the milking and the chores so we were trying to find a more efficient way of taking care of the animals and it frees us us up to have more family time we’ve really longed for because our family is so big and it’s important to us. We have no retirement thoughts at all. Retire to what? This is a lifestyle. it is a business but it’s a lifestyle. It’s our way of life. So we went about talking to several people at Empire Farm days about robots. We thought that we would look at this and see if it would help us in our situation. So I got ahold of Cooperative Extension and NRCS and soil conservation – all the different programs – to help us. We went from the stone age to landing on the moon is how it changed our situation here. We went to a TMR feeder, we went to automatic manures system, we have a robotic milker that is doing the milking for us. We have Juno and what it does is pushes a feed up to the cows every hour of the day and then we also have the automatic scraping system. That’s one of the things we both wanted to have because our cows feet are clean all the time. We run it on the hour and with that it helps keep the manure away and it helps what they call somatic cells so they have good clean milk. And they also have a groomer edge they love. It it is hilarious – that is probably one of my very favorite things to watch them do. We built the barn with the idea of them
being comfortable. Cow comfort was what we wanted. And I think we’re taking care of 70 cows easier than we did 45. It’s easier, but you have to think
differently now. It’s new for us. It’s a different kind of managing. Sometimes you have to come out in the middle of night at 3 o’clock in the
morning and that’s that’s not fun. But the amount of work that we’ve saved with the cows getting the food pushed up, the manure being scraped by itself, the composted bedded pack we only rototill once a day and the milking process … they’re being milked right right now. It’s paying for itself. It allows us to do the farming that we’re supposed to better. Cooperative Extension helped us the most on this whole plan. Tim Terry came in helping to design the barn and drawing pictures. He was a liaison between our carpenters, at times with the people with the milking systems and he helped it go a lot smoother. I don’t know as we would have done it without him. I think robotics is going to be the new thing in farming because of the labor
situation It is hard to get good labor and this has been a labor saver. Hopefully by making this a modernized farm it will bring the younger generation
to want to do it instead of just being all hard labor. We’re hoping to make this an organic dairy farm that’s viable so they would want to stay here. Making more milk and is helping it pay for itself. I think over the long run it’ll be a very good thing. Hats off to Tim Terry and Cooperative Extension.

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