This must be heaven
Kars dairy farm adds big barn, 2 robots
By Patrick Meagher
KARS ó The old barn with its add-on buildings are mostly dungeon dark and damp, with frightfully low ceilings, except for the area under the fabric-covered structure that completes one end. Hard to imagine the perseverance of milking 120 cows here for years.
Not any more. Take a short walk up the hill and you will see the new 274 ft. by 130 ft. bright red free-stall barn. After life in the dungeon, the new barn is a piece of heaven. Even the view from out the back garage door near the crest of the hill is inspiring. Inside there are two new model A4 Lely robots, 6 24 ft. diametre ceiling fans, a high peaked roof, wall-to-wall ventilation curtains and gel-filled waterbeds. Thereís even a $20,000 automatic broom. Itís a robotic battery-operated feed pusher that nudges the forage to the cows and automatically returns to its resting station. Moving down the alley on its own, it looks like it could be the obese uncle of R2-D2 from the movie Star Wars. Lely insists it saves 22 man days of work per year.
Owner Mark Lindsay, 38, said the best thing about the new barn is just about everything.
"Itís the environment. The brightness, the robots, the fresh air, comfortable stalls. The cows are comfortable with the robots. I knew I needed to have a lot of lighting and a lot of fans."
Now he has an office and costs are down. "Weíre feeding less cows for more milk and labour costs are down quite a bit."
He said it only took hours for the cows to settle in and only about five cows didnít adjust. Now fresh cows are milking up to six times per day. "Itís not one thing," Lindsay said. "If Iíd put the robots in the old barn Iíd still be milking just 30 litres per cow (per day)."
But now the cows are producing 38 litres per day. In the old barn "we could hit 32 if everything was really good."
Milking now with the robot is a breeze. "I donít have a single cow it wonít attach to," he said. "Iím not bragging about my herd. Iíve got some funny old cows."
You can see the new operation at the open house on June 15.
The cows moved in around mid-March, at the same time he finally paid for all the quota. His father, Eldon, 67, said they last bought quota about 10 years ago when it was $22,000 per kilogram. Mark is now milking 84 cows and overfilling his quota.
They had been planning to expand for four years. "I always knew I needed to grow and expand," he said. "If you donít grow and expand youíre done. It came to the point where it had to be done."
He looked at well over 50 barns and liked what he saw at the Tibben farm at Brinston, south of Winchester. "There really was no second choice. I just saw more successful operations with Lely than with other systems."