If you’ve ever watched the show Bar Rescue featuring Jon Taffer, you are familiar with the stress test he puts bars through to max out their capabilities and see how they do under pressure. I haven’t seen Jon in any of our barns lately, but there’s no way to describe the last few weeks of April other than a stress test.
As much as we try (and boy do we try!) to plan projects so there is plenty of time between each project, it always seems like projects end up falling on top of each other. For the first time in our history, we have started and are planning to start three different barns three weeks in a row.
After two years of plans, delays, COVID, and re-plans, we finally started up our biggest project to date on April 20th. The new build combines two herds and features six Lely Astronaut A5 robots, six Lely Discovery Collectors, and a Vector system with two Mixing Feeding Robots (MFRs). As most construction projects do, this job came down to the wire. Our dedicated Product Specialists both spent a 22-hour day in the barn making sure every product was performing at its best and ready to go for start-up. This is our first barn with a two MFR setup, so there was more of a learning curve involved in the Vector’s functionality. Start-up went great. By the third night gates were down, many cows were visiting the robot voluntarily, and the farmers were working off the fetch cow list. As expected, there were some bumps in the road and tweaks to make to settings and other things, but overall start-up was a huge success.
While this project was taking off, our team was simultaneously working on two other installations, while keeping our existing robot customers up and running. We have another three used Astronaut A4s at one project closer to home, and three Astronaut A5s about four hours away. Our used robot barn is set to start-up without a hitch, meeting everyone’s expected timeline. Believe it or not, we were even able to get our last remaining project hooked up and ready to go a week early so that they could train cows to the robot using the training mode setting. This will be monumental in helping startup go smoothly.
Amid the chaos, we had two new employees join our team at Lely Center Mid-Atlantic. Matt Brake joined us as our new Lely Sales Specialist and Caleb Koon joined our service team. We are fortunate that both young men come from Lely farms and have significant previous experience with Lely. Matt’s farm has two A5s, a Vector, and Collectors. Caleb’s farm has two A4s. It’s not every day that you get to ask your day one employees for advice and help during start-up, but that is exactly what we were able to do.
Stress tests are never fun, and for lack of a better word, they are, well, stressful. However, these start-ups would not have been possible if it wasn’t for the dedication of our team at Lely Center Mid-Atlantic, as well as the over-arching team at Fisher & Thompson, which includes the installation and cooling team, parts department, route team, and everyone else who works to keep us moving forward each day. It’s a special experience to be in a barn at 2am pulling together with the farmers, your team, and other company representatives, knowing that you’re all aiming for the same goal. We’re proud of all that we’ve accomplished, but we know the real work starts now!