“I actually visited and have a great friendship with Mason Dixon Farms that at the time had 10 robots,” said Hemminger.
“We decided in 2007, and we built a four-robot barn perpendicular to the existing barns with a vision if we stayed robotic we could tie this all together, which we ended up doing,” shared Hemminger.
Eighteen months later, Hemminger made the move to shut down his existing parlor and began milking with 12 robots. The dairy later added another robot for a grand total of 13 Lely Astronaut A3s.
Finding access to quality labor had been an issue for Hemdale Farms. But, with the addition of robotic milkers, the dairy has been able to increase its labor efficiency.
“We were shipping 1.2 to 1.3 million pounds of milk per man equivalent per year with the parlor operation and had more than half our heifers boarded out,” said Hemminger.
“Today, with the robots, we’re at 2.1 or 2.2 million pounds of milk per man equivalent and we’ve got three-fourths of our heifers home again.”
Gingrich Meadows Dairy in Leroy, Mich., was one of the first farms in the U.S. to use GEA Farm Technologies’ MIone multi-box automatic milking system. The 300-cow dairy is currently using two GEA MIone four-box units which were introduced to the European markets in 2005 and recently became available in North America.
For co-owner Amy Martin, the move to robotic milking has been a positive one, especially when it comes to spending time with family.
“We have more family time; for example, it’s me and my brother who own the farm, and we were actually able to take a vacation together this spring,” said Martin. “We left my oldest son and two employees to run the entire farm —all of the heifers, all of the cows, everything — for a week, which was great.”