In 1999, Jan and Chris Kappers, owners of Oldspank Farms in Ontario Canada, became one of the first Lely Astronaut milkers in North America. Their first robot is still running. In 1998, Jan and his family emigrated from Holland and purchased a vacant dairy farm in the Woodstock area. While they started milking in the tie barn, they immediately made plans for a free stall barn and parlor.
By chance, Jan met Aart van ’t Land (at that time VP Dairy Equipment at Lely Industries) and Talo Tamminga (former General Manager of Lely Canada) were in Ontario to lay the ground work for Lely Canada. Although he had no burning desire to be a robot farmer, Jan compared the cost of a parlor of his choice with the price of one Lely Astronaut milking robot. Also taking the lower building costs into account, he opted for the robot on purely economic grounds. Today, he remains very happy that this chance meeting took place.
With the three row slatted free stall barn completed in December 1999, the Kappers introduced their 55 cows to the Lely Astronaut. Since that time the herd has shown steady growth to its present size of 160 cows for three milking robots. Jan states: “Growing with Lely Astronaut milking robots has worked out well and while there is more work when the barn and robots are overcrowded, paying the bills is easier if the production is already partly there when a new investment is made.”