Less than a year into college, the cows called Logan Courtney home to the family farm, where he bought the first known robotic milker in Oklahoma and started a full-time dairy operation.
“From a young age, I wanted to milk cows,” says Courtney, now 21 and the owner of Courtney Farms Registered Jerseys in Chouteau. “My parents didn’t have a dairy when I was growing up. They ran a cow-calf beef operation, fed out hogs and raised forage crops. Through 4-H, I got into dairy judging and dairy quiz bowl, and it led into showing dairy. That’s how I got my start in dairy cows.” Courtney’s deep-rooted love for farming lured him to the agricultural industry. But it was the technology, specifically the robotic milker, that allowed him to attain his dairy dream.
“We’ve been farming here since 1933,” says Courtney, a fourth-generation farmer. “I grew up on the farm. It’s always been a part of me, and I’ve never wanted to do anything else. Sometimes that means updating technology to make it commercially viable, to reduce our environmental impact, improve animal welfare and be the best steward possible.”
Oklahoma’s First Robotic Dairy Advances Automation
With Courtney’s robotic milking system, cows voluntarily enter a computerized milking stanchion at their whim an average of three times a day. The machine identifies the cow by her chip-embedded collar and delivers her a customized feed ration while the robot milks the cow. When finished, the robotic milker releases the cow, who goes about her day roaming the barn or pasture.
Through research, Courtney quickly learned that a new robotic milker costs less in up-front investment than to purchase used equipment to establish a traditional parlor. Since that robot purchase, the benefits have flowed as plentifully as the milk.
The robot eliminates labor costs for Courtney’s 65-cow herd. It increases milk production per cow. The technology gives Courtney time to focus on management beyond milking cows. Plus, the robot and high-tech identification collar record a wealth of data that he uses to improve herd health and performance.
As importantly, the cows are happy, too. The cows can lay in the sunshine, give milk and eat when they so desire.
“Our job as a farmer is to keep cows happy and healthy to ensure they are never stressed,” Courtney says. “It’s my job and responsibility to treat them with the utmost respect they deserve and that I’m producing a quality, safe and sustainable product.”
How the Robotic Dairy Focuses on Animal Health
The high-tech collar around each cow’s neck doesn’t just provide a cow’s identification to the robotic milker. It also acts like a Fitbit that collects data about her activity, which can indicate health issues or a breeding cycle.
“From a management standpoint, I know a lot more about my cows than I would know in a traditional parlor,” Courtney says.
“We might catch a health issue far earlier than using traditional methods. We can get veterinary help earlier, if needed, or preventative medicine to give them a higher level of care.”
Courtney highly recommends robotic milkers to fellow dairymen for the benefit of themselves and their cows. The cows choose their daily activities, including when to relieve their full udders, and Courtney appreciates the flexibility to help his parents and sister in the fields without ties to a scheduled milking routine.
“Robots work incredibly well,” Courtney says. “Millennials are a tech-driven generation, so robotic milkers interest younger farmers to get involved and get into dairy.”