Hands down the best part of my job:
When you’re at home doing your thing, you know the routine, what to do, how long it’s going to take etc. and that’s great! But, I get so excited when I have the opportunity to travel and see other farms. You get to compare stats, see what equipment they’re using and evaluate the farm’s efficiency. Also, how does their productivity tie into their everyday family life? If and how they’re planning on growing their farm, and what would they do differently? Different barns, different animals… there is such a variety within the agriculture industry, no two farms are ever the exact same! Guess how pumped I was when DeLaval invited me to visit the World Dairy Expo in Madison, WI and attend their DeLaval Robotic VMS PROductivity Tour!!
Robots are still relatively new, the first VMS (Voluntary Milking System) made its public debut in September 1998. Essentially, with this new technology a cow is able to move and interact freely with other cows in a free-stall barn. She then visits robotic milking station when she chooses, going in of her own free will. If you’re not fully up to speed on what this is, I have a couple good sources of information here & here. For now though, let’s move on with the tour; I can’t wait to share it with you!
First up, we traveled to Krejchik Farms.
Joe and his wife, Karen, made the decision to retro fit their old barn 3 1/2 years ago due to a lack of available labour. They now have 2 DeLaval VMS robots servicing 120 cows. Although they did have to downsize from a previous herd of 300 cows, they feel that it has really improved their efficiency and productivity. It really lets the farm grow and diversify in other ways.
They’ve taken that automation a step further by building a separate calf barn and installing a CF1000 automatized calf feeder. I thought this was particularly interesting as every dairy farm I’ve worked on has always had the calves in their own individual hutches. Here, calves are put into groups within large pens. They are able to run, jump, socialize and go to feed whenever they want. Karen, particularly likes the fact that is gives them the option to feed powdered milk replacer, pasteurized milk from the farm, or a mix of the two depending on theirs and the calves’ preferences and requirements. Another way the Krejchiks use automation to help feed their animals is by using a DeLaval feed pusher FPM3000. This automated feed pusher can be programmed to push feed back towards the feedbunk at intervals of the farmer’s choosing. It’s a great way to ensure your cows get the nutrition they need without having to rely on manual labour!
Nowadays chores in both the morning and evening take just 1 1/2-2 hours, with more time being dedicated to individual cow care. If a cow does not come in to be milked within a certain time limit the herd management system will call the farmer to go find the cow. Joe said, “The midnight phone calls are infrequent, and not all the bad. Well worth the convenience of having VMS robots.”
Having just come from a conference addressing women in agriculture Karen and myself of course got talking on the topic. I love what she had to say.
“Back a generation, the guys generally didn’t teach girls about the mechanical aspects of farming. We made sure to teach our girls everything; how to plant, pour concrete, fix equipment. Some girls may not do something simply because she doesn’t know how. It can be even more of an issue if she also doesn’t know how to ask. Ask someone. Ask someone to teach you. Always Ask, Always Learn, Always Support!”- Karen Krejchik
This really resonated with me because a while back I was in a position where I messed up because I didn’t know how to clarify something. I was sooo embarrassed when I found out that I ‘d made this simple mistake. I didn’t go back and avoided the issues instead of learning from it.
I absolutely adored the bright blue boot covers DeLaval provided that just so happened to match their own corporate colour! It’s all in the details ;P
I’ve got tons more pictures to share with everyone from this tour tomorrow as we cover the next two barns and meet a couple really cool farmers! Stay tuned for more from the DeLaval VMS PROductivity Tour! 🙂