Dairy farmers across the entire country are constantly seeking ways to keep their cows more comfortable, produce high quality milk and improve their family's quality of life. Recently I was down in southern Medina County near Rittman and saw an excellent example if this on the Ramsier's Willow Spring Farm. This is a father-son family farm with about 110 cows in the milking herd.
At a meeting sponsored by the Ohio Dairy Producers, the Ramsier Family held an open house on their farm to show their new Lely robotic milking system.
Robotic milking machines are fascinating pieces of equipment, somewhat new in this country. They allow the cow to have the freedom to decide when she wants to be milked, and then the milking procedure is all done automatically. The dairy farmer does not need to be there, unless a problem comes up with the equipment, and is free to do other work.
To see the cows line up to go into the self-contained modular parlor to get milked was most interesting. They are enticed into the unit for at least two reasons. One is there is grain provided in the unit and the other is the comfort of the cow. She can relieve the pressure of milk in her udder.
Cows voluntarily enter the milking unit anytime during a 24-hour day. Some will choose to be milked in the middle of the night or any other time they please.
On an average, they decide to be milked three times a day. But son Joe Ramsier said they have had one cow producing more than 100 pounds of milk a day that decided she wanted to be milked five times during a day.
The Ramsiers put two 60-cow units right in the cows' living area with few changes, one on each end of the open lot. This system was installed last April and most of the cows adapted quickly. Young cows, with a calf for the first time, need some encouragement until they get used to the milking system and find out they can get some feed while in the unit.
Information the robot provides is amazing.
First, the cow's udder is brushed and sanitized, then a laser guides the equipment onto the cow.
Each cow's milk temperature and weight are recorded and the milk analyzed for any problems.
Milking equipment is steam-sanitized and rinsed between every cow to avoid spreading any possible contamination.
The robot is programmed to shut down and clean the entire system twice a day.
As with any mechanical piece of equipment, there can be problems. If this happens anytime, the robot is programmed to call Joe Ramsier or his father, Marvin, on their cell phones. They can quickly get to the unit and find the problem.
In visiting with Mrs. Marvin Ramsier, she says their herd has become calmer and quieter since installing these robots.
"We can walk into the lot and work with a cow and the rest don't pay any attention to us," she said.
They enjoy giving their cows the choice to be milked as they please.
As with most dairy farms with free-stall barns, cows on this farm have access to feed and water any time. They can lie down, walk around and eat as the please. Stalls have either rubber mattresses or water beds covered with chopped straw. Their comfort is a top priority on the Ramsier Farm, as it is on most dairy farms.
Since I have been involved with dairy farmers for many years, it was a most interesting experience to see this latest innovation in the milking system and cow comfort.
The Ohio Dairy Producers Association represents dairy farmers across Ohio. They provide educational opportunities for dairy farm families, represent them in legislative matters and help to tell the true story about dairy farming in Ohio.
Parker is an independent agricultural writer and works the local Farm Bureau Board.