Hemsarth Dairy LLC is a 4-robot retrofit which is projected to start the robots in January 2018. The farm is managed by Greg Hemsarth and his dad, Bruce. Together with their family, they also own and operate Purple Cow Winery in Bloomsburg, PA. We will be following their start-up to give you a front row seat to all the work that goes into a start-up.
Yesterday, I made a trip out to the farm for my second Farm Management Support (FMS) visit. According to the start-up timeline I created for training Lely Center Mid-Atlantic farmers, my objectives were to complete the pre-robot evaluation, take some pictures, and have a second T4C training now that all the cows are entered into the database. The pre-robot evaluation included looking at the body condition score of the cows, teat end condition, feet and legs, etc. The evaluation also included documenting current herd productivity measures such as daily production, fat, and protein. Lastly, I wanted to talk with Greg about his goals and objectives for once they are milking with their four Lely Astronaut A4s.
During my conversation with Greg, I asked him the following questions:
- What made you decide to purchase Lely robots?
- We wanted a cow friendly design that we could retrofit easily into our existing operations. Secondly, we currently use Afimilk. I figured that if I was going to upgrade my systems, I wanted a robot that would produce more data than I am already getting. Lely fit both of this criterion more so than other options we looked at.
- What considerations did you have with your barn design?
- We had storm water management issues to consider, which limited our square footage and where we could expand. The physical placement of the robots fits the current cow flow because it is in line with how they currently walk to and from the parlor. We are also able to do all the construction without interrupting the cow’s routine.
- What is your biggest goal for robotic milking?
- One of the biggest draws for us is employee management. We are currently paying $15/hour and still having trouble finding consistent and reliable labor. On the cow side of things, if we could reach a 95lb herd average, compared to our current 87-88lbs, we would be happy. I’m not sure how realistic that is though, as we already milk three times per day.
- How are you feeling at this stage in the process? Nervous, excited, anxious?
- All the emotions. As usually goes with construction jobs, our builder was supposed to start in October but won’t be here until next week, so we are right up against a tight schedule for start-up.
After the farm side of things was completed, Greg and I sat down at the computer. We discussed how to apply treatments to cows. To do so, we set up an example treatment plan. Once a treatment plan is created in T4C, a farmer will simply have to select the treatment he gave a cow, and it will automatically fill in what medicines are used, how much, and how often they need to be repeated. I explained to Greg that T4C recently got an update which enables farmers to do multi-step treatment plans (think, repro shots). So, if he ever wanted to enter a sync protocol, or a booster shot, he can set up the treatment to start a cow on a protocol, and the T4C program will notify him when the cow needs the next scheduled shot. In fact, this update allowed a lot of our Lely farms to discontinue use of other management programs and solely manage their herd from T4C. Greg and I also discussed the various data you can enter in the library section: farm contacts, medicines, sires, and more. Greg was even able to stump me a time or two on a question, reminding me how lucky I am to have an entire FMS team from Lely who supports me and will be able to help answer Greg’s question in a timely manner. It was a great day, and I am looking forward to continuing work with Greg and his family and showing our audience the entire process of start-up!
Be sure to check out our “Meet The Farmers” section to see pictures of Greg’s farm as they transition to milking with their four Lely Astronaut A4s!
~Abbie Rose, Level 2 Farm Management Support Specialist/ Operations Manager