One Local Dairy Farm Brings Agricultural Innovation to New Haven

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Pictured above: Eugene Scheer uses a computer to keep track of his herd.

Story and Photos by Brittany Menke -- Technical Writer

The Scheer Dairy Farm, located just outside of New Haven on Koelkebeck Road, has been in operation for many, many years and has seen several generations of the Scheer family as the head of operations. So, one could say that dairy farming is a family tradition for the Scheers. However, very recently, a big change has taken place and the farm’s methods have become not so traditional.

A few months ago the current owners, Eugene, Kathy, and Rick Scheer, installed two Lely Astronaut robotic milking systems: a sophisticated automated milking system that allows the cows to milk 24 hours a day, at their leisure.

Pictured right: The Lely Astronaut logo.

The cows are lured into the machine by the promise of grain that will be dispensed after the gate shuts and the cow is in place. When the cow enters the machine, it steps onto a scale that, not only, allows the Scheers to keep close track of each cows weight, but also helps the machine to find the cow’s center of gravity. This allows the Astronaut’s milking arm to easily find the cow’s udder and begin the milking process. So, after the position of the cow is determined, the milking arm cleans the udder of the cow and uses a laser, coined the “teat detection system,” to scan the entire udder bottom to locate the teat positions, and attaches milking cups to each teat. There is also a “milk quality control center” located in the arm that tells the teat cups to detach and provides vital information about milk quality and udder health.

Pictured left: Milk being held in a small tank inside the machine to measure the yield.

After the cow has given its yield, the milk travels through pipes into a 2,700 gallon tank held in the Scheers’ tank room. Each cow returns to the Astronaut several times a day of their own free will and the Scheers said that the cows took no training to learn how to use the machine. Also, while currently milk production is down slightly, at about 58 pounds on average per cow daily, because of the heat, in the long run, the Lely Astronaut is said to increase milk production and quality, because the cows are able to follow a natural milking cycle.

Another interesting feature of the Lely Astronaut is that each cow wears a numbered collar with a chip in it that the machine reads, so it keeps the statistics of that specific cow. The machine is able to calculate the estimated amount of milk yield and the length of time it will take for that particular cow to complete the milking process. The collar also measures each specific cow’s amount of activity and how long they chew cud each day. These two numbers are put together to calculate when the cow is ready to be inseminated.

Pictured left: The milking arm with the milking cups attached.

The Astronaut is manufactured by the Lely company and the phrase that Lely uses to describe themselves is “Innovators in Agriculture.” You can see why when you see the Astronaut in action. The company is based in The Netherlands and they have sold and installed 12,500 Astronaut systems all around the world. But, the Astronaut is not the only innovation the Lely company has given to the agriculture industry. Lely also manufactures machines for forage harvesting, turf care, and feeding and housing cattle. Each of which is unique to Lely in some way.

Something one might worry about when having a system such as this is that the farmer might become obsolete, but this is absolutely not the case. As Eugene Scheer said, “It’s less physical labor and more management.” And as Lely puts it, “You can organize your working day the way you like it; you no longer have to stick to fixed milking times. The saved time can now be used to monitor your herd and to optimize all the essential factors that go into making your farm more profitable.” It really gives the farmer the opportunity to have flexibility in his or her work day, even so much so, that the system can be operated from an iPhone. It truly is an innovative system and it’s an honor to have the first one in Missouri located in New Haven.

A special thanks to the Scheers for allowing me to come and photograph their farm.

Some of the information for this piece was obtained from www.lely.com.