Technology is essential on Scott Vieth’s dairy farm in Windthorst.
A robot milks his cows, ushering in a new era in dairy production for this third-generation dairy farmer.
Vieth decided to transition to robotic milkers in 2022. His dairy is one of just six robotic dairies in the state, with the majority of them located in Windthorst.
“I began using robots because my old parlour was becoming outdated.” “I wanted to be more innovative and use the technology that is currently being used in the dairy industry,” Vieth said. “Genetics are important to me, and I wanted to maximise the genetic potential of my cows.” “The robots provide me with the best option for that.”
Vieth’s cows were producing 80 pounds of energy-corrected milk per day in his previous parlour, but since switching to robotic milkers, they are producing 95 pounds of energy-corrected milk per day.
Veith deployed nine Lely A5 robots under a climate-controlled tunnel vent barn of 100,000 square feet. During the sweltering Texas summers, the climate-controlled barn provides a cooler habitat for the cows.
The robots also collect data from the cows’ rumination collars, which they wear on a regular basis. The collars are necessary for robotic milkers because they communicate with the robot about the cow that is being milked. The robot scans the cow’s collar and gives the farmer with information about the cow, such as heat detection, animal health, and how much milk the cow is making, similar to a Fit-Bit.
“The robotic milker reads the cows’ collars as they come in to be milked, and if a cow has been in there for less than four hours, it automatically kicks them out because it is too soon for the cow to be milked again,” Vieth said. “What drives the cows to the robots are feed pellets that I refer to as cow candy.”
The number of pellets the cow is permitted to eat is determined by the amount of milk the cow produces. For this reason, the cows like being in the robot.”
The robotic milkers operate 24 hours a day, enabling the cows to come and go as they want. Every cow is milked at least twice a day, and perhaps up to five times a day if the animal desires.
Each robot can manage 60 cows, allowing Vieth to expand his farm from 450 to 550 with one less staff.
Vieth’s farm has become more efficient because to technology and his willingness to adapt.
“I believe people hear machines or robots and believe there is a schism between the person and the animal.” There isn’t one. It is providing the greatest care for the animals,” Vieth said. “The cows adore the robots because they never have to worry about their milk.” If they come in three or four times a day, their bags are not as agitated as they would be if you milked twice a day in a regular parlour.”
When the cow enters the robotic milker, their collar is scanned, and the milking procedure starts.
The quantity of grain supplied to the cow is dropped by the robot. Before milking, the cow’s teats are cleansed with a brush and disinfectant.
Before the robot attaches to the cow’s teats and starts milking, a laser scans the positioning of the teats.
After milking, the teats are sprayed with an orange dye that protects the teats.
The cow is returned to the herd, and the next cow arrives.
According to Vieth, there are often two to three cows waiting to enter the robotic milker.
After the cows are milked, the liquid is cooled to 35 degrees in the milk tank. The faster the milk cools, the longer its shelf life.
After a day, the milk is delivered to Daisy for use in sour cream before being supplied to a big restaurant chain.
Vieth’s cows now produce 5,500 litres of milk every day.
The robotic milkers have increased Vieth’s output and allowed him to maximise the genetic potential of each cow. According to Vieth, his father was well-known for his farm’s genetics and was a major dairy farmer in Texas and the nation.
He aspires to maintain the same reputation.
“I think the biggest benefit of this type of technology is that sometimes there is human error, and the robot eliminates that,” Vieth said. “At any time of day, I can go to my computer or check the app on my phone to see if a cow is sick or has any problems.”
Vieth’s schedule may now be more flexible, allowing him to spend more time with his family.
The dairy business has long been a focal point in the Windthorst community. There were formerly 100 dairies in the Windthorst and Scotland region, but that number has since dropped.
“It’s been a big part of this community, and it’s been sad to see some of the farms go over the years,” he says. “The dairy industry is extremely competitive.” You will be left behind if you do not keep up with the times and technology.”
Vieth also has a Juno, which is similar to a Roomba for dairy cows and pushes the feed up six times a day. As the cows pick through their grain, the Juno moves along the rows, pushing the meal closer to the animals so they can continue eating.
After being milked, the cows even have waterbeds to rest on.
Vieth’s dairy is a perfect illustration of the dairy industry’s continual innovation. This vital area of Texas agriculture relies heavily on cow comfort, animal health and nutrition, efficiency, and sustainability.
And it allows him to continue on his family’s dairy farming history.