- Created: Thursday, 01 June 2017 16:47
Data, technology and family management are what define Homestead Dairy. Flashback to the early days, Brian’s father and uncle took the lead from their father and were milking 140 cows in a double 6 herringbone parlor. Through the generations, the farm has seen incredible changes. Fast-forward to now and you will find Brian, his cousin, his brother in-law and cousin in-law using automatic robotic feeders for the calves and robotic milking systems for their cows.
Brian believes there are huge advantages to milking cows with robots. “The cows act different. In the new barn, we are allowing cows to be cows,” Brian shares. “We were able to reduce labor for our employees and tell a better story to our consumers.” An added bonus – their mature cows in the robotic facilities are out producing the conventional herd on average by 6 pounds.
Complimenting the high-tech milking barns are the automatic calf feeders. Changing regulations in the state of Indiana forced Brian to re-think the way they raise calves. 675 hutches with paneled outside access would not be a viable option without considerable reconstruction to collect water run-off.
“I was very skeptical of auto-feeders and raising calves in groups. I believed a calf needed to be kept by itself to build up its immune system.” His openness to new ways of feeding and raising calves has paid off. The calves are now gaining about 30% more by weaning and transitioning better to next phase of growth. They are in the process of finishing their fourth calf barn and scaling up to a total of 8 automatic calf feeders.
Homestead Dairy is beginning to welcome the first calves who graduated from the automatic feeders to the robotic milking facility. Brian shares, “We were able to calve in these heifers 60 days quicker because they reached breeding weight that much sooner due to increased gains with the auto-feeders.” He continues, “It will be very interesting to see how these heifers perform compared to our previous groups of first calf heifers.”