In 2007, Mark and Michelle Tolsma of Lynden, Wash. decided they should put in a creamery.
"We wanted a stable milk price," Mark Tolsma says. "In order to [make a creamery work] we needed to have a different model. So we started using glass bottles."
TheTwin Brook Creamerytook off and in 2009 the Tolsmas realized they would need to expand to meet the needs of their growing customer base.
Now selling their milk in 200 stores in the Portland and Seattle areas, the Tolsmaswere starting to feel consumed by their labor needs so they decided to research robots. Not only did robots save them a labor headache, they are profitable.
In August 2015, Twin Brooks installed three Lely robots.
"We started robots because we milked 200 cows in a double-four, two six hour milking shifts," Tolsma explains. "The milker would start at 2:30 go to 8 then would start again at 3 am and go until 8:30." That milker worked six days per week for six years so when the robots were installed the Tolsmas found him a job at the creamery.
To accommodate the robots, Twin Brooks would need a new barn. They decided to remodel their existing barn and added 20 ft. to one side of the barn. They financed the remodel and robots for around $750,000. The project is paying for itself.
Tolsma was able to eliminate two employees, saving $5,000 per month. They also saved money on feed costs. Their total cost of production declined by $1.62. In addition to saving on the production side, their cows are producing 30% more milk. He says after factoring in their loan payment, the robots have increased their income $9,000 each month.
"Our results are on the better side, but we had a lot to fix on our dairy," he says.
Twin Brooks Creamerywas one of the farm families that hosted a Virtual Farm Tour at the World Dairy Expo last week.