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Meyer VMS Dairy, Inc.
Type of Operation: Dairy
Size of Operation: 170 head
Years in Business: 30
Farm Credit Partner: Farm Credit Illinois
Years Working with Farm Credit: 3
Traditional dairy operations are labor intensive, requiring a strict, consistent regimen of milking each cow two or three times a day – every, single day. One dairy operator in southern Illinois has made an investment in technology that has changed daily life on his farm in a significant way.
Paul and Lisa Meyer have a 170 head herd of dairy cattle that they’ve managed for 30 years, having taken over a family operation started by Paul’s grandfather. For most of those 30 years, they’ve revolved their daily lives around the needs of the herd. That all changed in late 2010, when they installed a robotic milking system that eliminates much of the manual labor and time demands of traditional milking. Financed by Farm Credit Illinois, each robotic milker – and the Meyers' system has four – handles up to 70 cows per day.
When a cow enters the milking parlor, robotic assemblies spring into action: one arm cleans and sterilizes the udder, another milks the cow, attaching itself to the udder until milking is complete. An electronic identification tag attached to each cow’s ear enables the system to monitor daily activity, providing detailed information on the herd and individual cows. “I’m able to learn more about my herd in ten minutes through reading the tracking reports than what I could learn from a full day in the barn,” Paul says. “As long as I have my laptop or iPad, I can pull up the tracking reports on my cows anywhere and identify potential problems before they occur.”
With the new system, milking is now a 24 hour process, allowing each cow to move in and out of the milking area at its leisure. This Voluntary Milking System (VMS) is less stressful on the cow, as each can determine when the pressure in its udder is sufficient to want to be milked. An incentive is offered to encourage the cows to come in to be milked – special feed that they eat during the process, which supplements their natural forage outside. The VMS approach increases milking frequency, which can also increase production. Combined with the increased information the robotic system obtains Paul is able to run his operation much more proactively and efficiently.
The result is a better lifestyle for him and his wife. “The robots give me and my wife freedom. We’re no longer tied to the farm,” he says. “I enjoy working with cows and being a dairyman, and the robots allow me to stay in the business and be profitable.”