North Dakota dairies are milking new technology for all it’s worth. Across the state, automated milking systems are increasingly popular. Innovative dairy farmers like Dwane and Joan Wanzek, owners of Wanzek Dairy in Cleveland, are using robotic milkers that make the process – and quality of life – better for both the producers and cows.
Each day, the dairy’s 300 cows roam to one of the farm’s five robotic milkers at their leisure, only approaching them when they need to be milked. Dwane Wanzek says the cows are milked when they want instead of at a set time daily like in a traditional milking schedule. This helps the animals feel more relaxed.
“They’re doing a lot better, especially because they can come and go as they please to get milked,” he adds.
Since installing the robotic milkers in early 2015, the farm’s milk production has increased. The quality has improved, too, as the milk’s somatic cell count has dropped by more than half. And cow pregnancy rate has gone up, while the need to replace cows has gone down. Additionally, the robotic milking system has freed up the family’s schedule. No longer does someone have to be present to milk.
“There’s no set schedule with the robots, which operate 24 hours per day,” Wanzek says.
He was inspired to use robotic milking because of the Hoff Dairy in Richardton, the first in the state to install an automated milking system. Third-generation farmers, Harvey and Janal Hoff set up their own system in 2011. Like Wanzek, Harvey Hoff says the major benefits of robotic milkers include a flexible schedule and increased cow comfort. Using his smartphone, Hoff monitors robotic milkers remotely. An app notifies him when cows are milked or of any technical issues. The system also greatly benefits dairy consumers, he says.
“This helps put out a very safe product for the consumer, and that means a lot to us.”