The New York Farm Show, held last week in Syracuse, greeted thousands of farmers and growers alike with the latest in farming services and manufacturing. The show featured a daily dairy robotics roundtable hosted by Farm Credit East and sponsored by Farming Magazine.
The sessions, throughout the three days, showcased area farmers including Craig Finke of Finke Farms, Dan Brown of Snow Brook Farms, John Wolf of Maple Farms; the additional roundtables during the show also featured Nathan Blesy of Blesy Farms and Jim Woloszyn of Niefergold Dairy LLC.
The panel discussed the challenges they faced and successes they’ve had in implementing the robot technology at their farms. They were one of the first groups of farmers to use the then-new approach to dairy farming.
With the robotics, a smart phone can control every function, said Finke, from Nashville, Illinois, less than an hour southeast of St. Louis. With his farm spanning 1300 acres and 117 milking cows, Finke noted his robot—a Galaxy Astrea 20.20—milks two cows and steam cleans. He had a milking parlor before, but the barn he uses now is specifically made for robots. The annual upkeep of the robot costs Finke about $7,000 to $8,000.
“If you’re a person who likes to sit at a desk all day and crunch numbers, this thing is for you,” Finke said.
Brown of Great Valley, New York, had a different approach to his DeLaval VMS robot. His farm started with robotic milking in 2011 and figured out a way that worked for him. With the new technology, Brown doesn’t usher his cows in a routine as he did before.
“I don’t bring the cows in at the same time,” Brown said. “Maybe one day I’ll go at lunch and make everyone come to the barn, whether they were just milked or not. Maybe the next day I’ll do it at 9 in the morning or at 7 at night, you never want to do it at the same time.”
Brown said he spends about $10,000 a year on the upkeep of his robot. “It was harder for me than the cows to get used to this system,” Brown said. “It’s been a very nice transition and very accepting. I can’t believe how easy it is to be a farmer.”
Wolf, who farms in Lynos, New York, has 325 cows over 1,120 acres. With his Lely robot, he eliminated 220 minutes of manpower per week. Wolf mentioned that cows function better with the robots when there is no human involvement.
“We trained 300 cows in less than a week,” Wolf said. “No cows went down and nobody got hurt.”
The Friday seminar included Blesy who milks 260 cows with five robots out of his Springville, New York farm. He said he chose his Lely robots for the reliability and flexibility.
“Most of the time (if the robot wasn’t working), it took 15 minutes to fix and you went back to work. The flexibility sealed the deal,” he said. “We are about two months into (the technology), so I’m still learning all the information still.”
Blesy also noted that robotic milking going forward would be helpful for the next generation of farmers.
“I have a 3-year old and another one coming in June, and we’re basically looking for the future. We got frustrated training somebody to do this,” he said. “So, the kids can learn to do it since my generation and theirs will really be good with computers.”
Saturday’s session also showcased Julie Pellet of Linholm Dairy in Bloomfield New York, milking more than 200 cows with three robots; and Glenn and Shreyl Taylor of Tayl-Wind Farms out of Cassville, New York. The couple milks 200 cows with robots using a Juno feed pusher.