The farm was one of six operations participating in the Green County Dairy Modernization Tours held Aug. 24, sponsored by the University of Wisconsin-Extension and the Green County Milk Quality Council.
The tours are held every two years and feature various sizes of farms that have modernized dairy facilities to increase productivity and animal comfort as well as to reduce labor requirements.
The Rieders installed two Lely Astronaut A4 robotic-milking units about four years ago. Prior to installing the robots, the Rieders were milking three times daily. At the beginning, helping cows make the transition to a catch pen and the robotic milking units took about four months, according to Nick Rieder. But the cows have adjusted.
Since then, acquainting fresh heifers to the system requires about a week of time, Rieder said. He or his father will walk heifers through the catch pen and to one of the robots, standing with the animal while it’s being milked.
“They like being scratched while they’re being milked,” Rieder said.
Cows also are lured to the robots by flavorful corn-gluten pellets and roasted soybeans, which drop – in measured amounts – to a feeder as the cow is being milked.
Dairy production has become more flexible for the Rieders because the cows can be milked at any time of day. That frees time for field work and other farm tasks. Robots also could help offer solutions as available labor becomes more of an issue, Reider said.
The system records data that the Rieders use to improve their herd’s reproductive capacity.
“The system records everything from rumination time and activity time to body temperature and milk production,” Rieder said. “Heat detection is spot-on.”
The farm’s milk production per cow has increased by about 5 pounds per cow since the robots were installed, to about 84 pounds per cow. The herd is comprised of about a 50-50 mix of Holstein and Brown Swiss genetics.
Before purchasing the Lely system, the Rieders visited other dairy farms with robotic-milking units. Another factor in their buying decision was that a Lely technician is located in Monroe; the technician helps with software updates. System glitches are infrequent, Rieder said.
“And 99 percent of the time we can fix suction problems,” he said.
In addition to the robotic milking units, the Rieders purchased a Lely automatic feed pusher four years ago. The machine pushes fresh feed to where cows can reach it at any hour of the day.
“It runs every hour on the hour and has been a real money maker,” Rieder said.