Cleared for takeoff-my account of a robot startup

On the morning of August 5th, 2014 the black and white beauties walked through the milking parlor for the last time at Hillside Farm.

 As I watched them walk up the steep hill to the new barn, I felt every step forward pull at my heartstrings. 

It had been a long climb to get to this day.

As the cows arrived at the barn, along with all of our extra help for the day, I felt my heart beat a little faster.

You know that feeling right before you jump off the diving board?

Imagine that with 170 cows and the rest of the world watching.

So at promptly 9:00 a.m. on a Tuesday the first cow was guided to the robot.

We all glanced around as if waiting for the signal.

"Hillside Farm you are clear for takeoff"


And so it began.

We milked one cow and then another.

We stood by as they were milked all day.

And all night.

And the next day. And the next night.

And every hour since.

Over the past 12 days I have seen every cow at least 100 times.

I have opened a thousand gates.

I have blistered my feet and consumed more coffee than I thought humanly possible.

I have made new friends and cherished the ones who have been there all along.

 I have made countless lists, laughed at my own mistakes, yelled twice and cried once.

After losing too much sleep I might have even felt like this...


This morning I came into the barn to see this.

And standing there I realized that every second has been worth it.

Every hour of sleep lost, every day of work, every week and month and year of planning has paid off in this moment.

There is no greater happiness for a dairy farmer than to see their cows with all of their needs met.

And though I cannot say how the story will end, I can tell you that there is a red barn in the hills of Southwest Virginia that is full of happy cows and farmers that are very grateful.

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Comment by Theo Scholze on September 1, 2014 at 3:15pm

Would you be interested in publishing an update every couple of months or so....we are in the very early planning process of a new facility and have been trying to decide on robots or not, so I would be interested in reading the progress as you acclimate to your new facility.


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