Memorial Day will always have unique meaning to me after last year. This is the anniversary of when we started milking with Lely A4 robots. Let me tell you, this past year has been one wild ride! Between getting the cows used to the robots, learning how to manage a herd with robots and surviving the arctic winter we learned a lot. So here are some things we learned over the last 365 days.
Nothing works as good in cold, including robots.
I think everyone knows this, but in the Midwest the winter was even colder than anyone had predicted. It was long and brutal, and I honestly feel blessed to have made it through. I hope I never have to live through a winter like that. When you are thrilled about having two days in a row above zero degrees there is something wrong.
You will still get calls from the robots, sometimes.
I am not here to kid around with anyone. Robots are not perfect so you will get calls occasionally. However, I would rather have to go out and fix a robot than have an employee call at 3 a.m. telling me they’re not going to make it. There are still problems; they are just different problems.
The beginning is only temporary.
When you are first starting out with the robots, the beginning is rough. As a farm we lost a lot of weight, slept very little, and fetched A LOT of cows. But do not fret, it is only temporary, and it does get better. Just chug through, and it is worth it.
Farm technology is here to stay.
The management advantages that we have gained from our robots is astounding. At the beginning I had to force myself to not micro-manage individual cows. There was so much information coming to me that I could stare at the computer all day. This makes me excited for the future because I cannot imagine what is coming next. The strides we made in my time have been mind-blowing. I remember my parents milking in the stanchion barn when I was a young girl; I watched the parlor be built and milked in it for years, and now I am an owning part of the robot expansion.
Although a voluntary milking system may not be for every farm, the technological advances we have made are incredible regardless. With all of this at our fingertips, the future is all that much more exciting!