September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
Ruth and Alan Hageman started milking with robotics on Sept. 20. The cows, and the Hagemans, still love "Hans" and "Martha," their two new Lely robotic units named in honor of Lely's origins in the Netherlands.
"Things are going very well," Ruth said. "Everything has been going well since we started up and field work went much smoother this year since Karla (their 17-year-old) could easily keep an eye on milking in the afternoons when she got home from school."
Alan and Ruth's son, Scott, joined the farming operation after he graduated from high school in 2011.
The Hagemans were running about 80 cows through a 57-cow tiestall barn, taking about two and a half hours per milking, and knew they had to make a decision about the future of their operation.
They made the decision to go to robotics as a family. They considered putting in a parlor, but knew they would have to take on hired help with a bigger herd with that type of milking setup.
They had seen robotics at World Dairy Expo, but they weren't yet sold. Then they went to an open house on a farm using robotics near Kasson, Minn. "That is the day I knew we weren't going to put in a parlor," Ruth recalls. "I didn't know how well they work until I saw them in action that day."
They are now milking about 130 cows, which is where they want to stay for now.
The Hagemans constructed a 117-stall freestall barn, with one side almost entirely poly-carbonate to let in natural light and tunnel ventilation. The fully-insulated barn features 14 55-inch fans, providing a constant five to seven mile per hour breeze. Freestalls have rubber mats and are bedded with sawdust. There is an alley scraper to handle the manure, and also a scraper that pushes feed up to the cows 12 times a day.
"The ventilation system is working beautifully," says Ruth. On the cool spring mornings, curtains are closed and the fans are low, and in the warm afternoons, everything is open with fans creating a cooling breeze.
"I cannot think of a thing I would have done differently if I could do it over," says Alan about the construction project.
What does Alan think of the completed barn? "It's amazing," he says.
The cows are currently milking about 77 pounds a day. They had one cow give 190 pound of milk in one day. The cows are currently averaging milking themselves 2.9 to 3 times a day.
In addition to the increased milk production, the Hagemans have also noticed a marked increase in their reproduction success and are using fewer drugs since they don't have to synchronize them.
Ruth is a nurse, and about three weeks after they started up the robotics she increased her hours at Veteran's Memorial Hospital in Waukon to full time.[[In-content Ad]]