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  • Cranberry Creek Farms goes robotic
    ‘It was either get out or do something better'
    By Nelson Zandbergen - AgriNews Staff Writer

    KARS -- Casey and Chloe milk the cows at Cranberry Creek Farms, and Jake helps to keep the animals fed. Day in and day out, the trio toils without complaint inside the spacious new barn.

    They're robots, of course, and featured attractions at the farm's June 15 open house event.

    The Lindsay family chose to give names to the Lely-brand machines, adding a little extra personality to their robots with large stick-on letters. Casey and Chloe are A4-model milking robots, while Jake is a droid-like Juno-model feed sweeper.

    "The adjustment went smoothly for us and the cows," said Mark Lindsay, standing in the middle of the free-stall facility as Chloe efficiently serviced a cow nearby.

    Construction on the $2-million project began last September, and the herd moved into its new digs on a lucky date, St. Patrick's Day.

    Located on a hill, the barn is laid out with six-rows of stalls and feed alleys on the barn's perimeter, allowing the animals access to either robot. There's room for an expanded milking herd of up to 120, though Lindsay currently meets his existing quota requirement with 94. That's down from the approximately 100 cows milked in the farm's previous barn -- an 80s-era facility with double-10 milking parlour.

    "We were able to cut back on the size of the herd," the third-generation dairy farmer explained, noting the switch to robots boosted average daily production per cow from 32 litres to 38. "And we're peaking now at 39 litres."

    The facility also houses all of the operation's heifers and dry cows, which are comfortably bedded on peat moss. Gell mats also line the stalls of the milking herd.

    Automated scrapers remove manure, sending the material on its way to a new storage lagoon.

    The owner continues to use an existing drive-over pile pad to store his ensilage feed grown on the farm's 600 acres of cropland. "We started that a couple of years ago, and that was a big improvement, too," he said.

    But it was time for the old barn and parlour to go. "Something had to be done. It was either get out, or do something better."

    Lindsay had his mind set on the robotic route before undertaking the project. Installing another parlour was never on option. "I didn't even consider it."

    Today, Lindsay and a hired man are able to look after the highly automated new barn all by themselves. With more time for management, he expects to do more with the purebred herd. "I'm probably going to pay more attention to the genetics than I have been."

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