Wayne County Dairy Twilight Tour goes robotic

WOOSTER, Ohio — More milk, reduced labor needs and calm cows are just a few of the benefits of the robotic milkers at Ro-La-Sue Dairy in Wooster.  Owned and operated by Clifford and Rod Scheibe and family, the farm was the site for the 2013 Dairy Twilight Tour, sponsored by the Wayne County Dairy Service Unit and OSU Extension-Wayne County.

Rod’s wife, Addie, handled one of the milking shifts, but when the robots were installed, she went from milking to pushing cows or teaching cows to enter the robot for milking. Rod and Addie’s daughter, Amanda Raber, takes care of the calves and helps care for the fresh cows and vaccinations on calves and cows.

Her husband, Willie, takes care of feeding the cows and bedding the barns. Their son, Ben, has returned home from a four-year tour of duty with the Marines, including a year stationed in Afghanistan and takes care of the robots. They also have some help from neighbors as needed.

Moving ahead

Cliff added that Rod and his family are doing a great job of keeping things going on the farm.

“Grandpa gave dad four heifers to raise for sale, but he kept them and began milking cows,” said Rod. “Dad is always interested in doing the next new thing.”

Cliff Scheibe purchased his farm in 1957, when he married his first wife, Carol. Carol passed away after a battle with multiple sclerosis, which put some stress on the family, according to Cliff.

He started milking in a stanchion barn and added a pipeline as his herd grew. He also worked at the research center for ten years, a job Cliff Scheibe credits with encouraging his interest in adding up-to-date technology on the farm.

Scheibe added a milking parlor, computerized feeders and automatic take-offs. Following a barn fire in 1991, Scheibes had someone design their new facility so it would meet the needs of their herd.

Rod admitted that when they built the new barn after the fire, he questioned some of the ideas the designer implemented in the barn, but when it came time to add the robots, they went into the 22 year old barn with no problem.

“Dad and I worked together on this,” said Rod. “We looked at a lot of different robots and talked to a lot of people.”

Installing robots

Scheibes installed four Lely Astronaut A4 Robots in February. Rod said there are different systems available, but they went with the Lely because WG Dairy handled the product.

“Dad and I didn’t look at any other kind,” Rod said. “We went with W.G. Dairy because we have always done business with them.”

Ben added that the people at W.G. Dairy have been great to work with. He said if there is a problem, he tries to sort it out, if he can’t, he will call W.G. Dairy and a technician will walk him through the problem. If he can’t fix it with a phone call, the technician will make a farm call.

Rod said the start-up was crazy, because the cows weren’t used to having strange people in the barn.

“They were super people to work with and very helpful, but our cows weren’t used to them,” he said.

Increased production

Every herd is different, but Rod said they definitely saw an increase in production with the installation of the robotic milkers. They had been milk twice a day before installing the robots and now with the robots, most cows are milked three times a day, resulting in increase of about ten pounds per day, per cow.

They have been able to their cows into four groups, allowing them to give special care to fresh cows and two-year olds.

Rod added that some of the increase is due to the fact that the cows are fed in the robots, but a lot more credit goes to the fact that the cows aren’t standing around in a holding area, particularly in hot weather.

And, the cows are calmer and udder health has improved because the cows are milked more frequently. Scheibe added that with the installation of the robots, he has had to make some culling decisions as cows with low udders don’t work in the system.

Rod said the cows receive pelleted feed in the robots and a TMR consisting of corn silage, grain, baleage, dry corn and minerals at the bunk.

He added that they know a lot more about their cows with the robotic systems, as they track body weight, milk weight and whether the cows are sick or in heat.

Josh Kepler, also a member of the dairy service unit board and a local AI technician said the cows wear a collar and as they move about, it records their activities.

“This is another set of eyes in the barn,” he said. “We can catch cows in heat faster and get them bred back faster with earlier heat detection.”

Getting adjusted

Addie said in the beginning the cows weren’t quite sure what to make of the new robotic milkers. Addie said they had to stay close to the barn for the first couple of days until the cows got used to the robots.

“It isn’t easy,” she said. “The cows aren’t going to do it for you, but the longer they go through the robots, the easier it is and the happier we are.”

Now that the cows have gotten used to the system and unless there is a new heifer in the group, Scheibes don’t have to be in the barn, they can be doing other things.

Cliff added that Rod and his family are doing a great job of keeping things going on the farm.

“As a banker, one thing that makes us happy is to see the family involved and plans in place for the farm to be handed on to the next generation,” said Tom Stocksdale, an agricultural lender with a local financial institution and member of the Wayne County Dairy Service Unit Board.

About the Author

Freelance writer Susan Mykrantz has been writing for Farm and Dairy since 1989. She is a graduate of the ag college at Ohio State University and also serves as editor of the "Ohio Jersey News." She lives in Wayne County. More Stories by Susan Mykrantz

3 Comments

  1. Bea Elliott says:

    Adult humans do not need cow’s milk any more than they need goat’s milk, wolf’s milk, camel’s milk, giraffe’s milk. Unweaned infants do remarkably better on their own mother’s breast milk which is what our species was intended to consume. There’s absolutely nothing beneficial to the human diet in cow’s milk that can’t be gotten through plant based sources.

    Female cows are forcibly artificially inseminated to become pregnant and continue lactating. After 9 months, the dairy industry steals these baby calves shortly after they are born. The “worthless” males who can’t make milk are either killed immediately or kept in isolation for a few months to become veal. The unfortunate females calves follow their mother’s sad lot all the way to the last moments on the kill floor when they are no longer “productive”.

    Thankfully there’s abundant plant based alternatives that are just as nutritional, just as satisfying and just as versatile in cooking. Some even have twice the amount of calcium and vitamin D as cow’s milk does.

    Dairy is also destructive to the environment and a tragic waste of resources. Perhaps it is time for “unweaned” adults to look beyond what deceptiveness and hype the dairy industry is pitching at you in order to keep their profits and their cruel practices in check.

    • Will Flannigan says:

      Hi Bea,

      I think your comment here is on topic, but I’m going to have to remove the embedded video. If you’d like to link to a video, please don’t embed it in your comment, simply copy and paste the link. We can’t really allow anybody to embed videos, because we can’t guarantee the content is appropriate for our readers.

      Thanks so much,

      Will Flannigan
      Online Editor, Farm and Dairy

  2. CJ says:

    So Bea how would you like for the rest of the world to live? Do not force your opinion’s on me pretty please. This “unweaned adult” loves a good glass of milk.

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