Robots help do the work on a Wayne County, Ohio dairy

RITTMAN, Ohio — What is the one chore dairymen dread the most?

Well, that depends on which dairyman you ask. But, thanks to new technology, there’s one big chore that dairymen no longer have to endure — at least not on their own.

Thanks to the advent of robotic milkers, and their introduction to the Buckeye State, Ohio dairymen can now spend less time in the parlor and more time tending to other chores.

The first robotic milker was installed in Ohio late last year, at a farm near Plain City, and the first in the northern half of the state was installed in April, at the Ramsier dairy farm in Rittman.

New investment

Joe Ramsier and his father, Marvin, had been eyeing robotic milkers for several weeks, and took interest in a unit they saw on display at W.G. Dairy Supply, during an open house at the Creston store.

About a month after installation, Ramsier said nearly all cows enter on their own and seem content with how it works. Once a cow enters, a large robotic arm attaches each unit to each udder teat, and begins to draw milk.

The cows enter whenever they like, drawn by the fresh feed dispensed for them to eat, and their own bodies telling them it’s time to be milked. Each cow is milked an average of three times, and the identity of each cow is electronically recorded on a computer monitor, which allows each cow to be milked a different number of times — no more than six times per day.

Two units

Ramsier has two robotic milkers, manufactured by Lely, and installed by W.G. Dairy, a local company. He milks 110 head, and milkers operate all day and night.

If there’s a problem — a cow not lining up, the milker not attaching, or any leakage issues (very rare) — the device will automatically call his cell phone.
The benefits are many. For one, it frees up some of his help so they can tend to other chores. And it frees his mother, so she can spend more time with “grandma duties,” he said.

The increased milking, coupled with careful monitoring, is expected to produce additional yield. Ramsier hopes to get about 8-10 pounds more per cow, per day, as a result of using the robot.

The cows appear more comfortable when milked on their own, and he has noticed a decrease in the level of mastitis.

Major improvement

It all adds up to a major improvement over his old parlor — a double-eight herringbone. His new parlor also has its own office and viewing area, built by K & M Builders, with a concrete floor by B&K Construction of Marshallville.

But the big question is, does it make sense economically? It’s one Ramsier said is hard to calculate. If you figure his labor savings, he’s cut the cost of labor in half, at least.

The yield increases and cow comfort also are important improvements. W.G. Dairy salesman Dean Stoller said the cow’s choice to be milked is significant.

“The cow can choose when she wants to be milked,” he said. “She’s not forced into a holding pen and crammed into a tight area. She goes on her own free will.”

And there’s arguably less stress on the dairyman, because he spends less time watching over people’s shoulders.

“I enjoy working with the cows more than I enjoy managing people,” Ramsier said.

Although each dairyman should seek his or her own quote, the average price per unit is a bit more than $200,000.

Easy on cows

Despite the high-tech, mechanical design, the Ramsiers and salespeople at W.G. say it’s actually very kind to the cows. In the event that something goes wrong, it has safety mechanisms to shut itself off, so no damage would be done to the cow.

Stoller said it’s a new technology that will need to grow along with dairy farmers’ confidence, but he’s confident it will happen now that a few units are being put to work in the state.

Lely robotic milker video:

About the Author

Chris Kick lives in Wooster, Ohio. An American FFA Degree recipient, he holds a bachelor’s in creative writing from Ashland University. He spends his free time on his grandparents’ farms in Wayne and Holmes counties. More Stories by Chris Kick

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