“For a small family farm, I think robots are the future. They help cut labor, and the family can manage them better than if they previously depended on hired help.”
The Poettkers are just the fourth farm in their area to install milking robots, but Duane suspects more will make their way to Central Illinois as family-run farms consider the benefits of robots and the future of their dairies.
“It’s important to me to keep our dairy a family farm – and to keep the Poettker name dairying for another generation,” says Duane Poettker.
He and his wife, Patricia, have been dairy farming for 40 years in Aviston, Ill. They were planning to ride out the rest of their milking days with an old double-4 DeLaval herringbone parlor until their son, Eric, and wife Bridgett, showed an interest in continuing the family tradition.
To keep the farm going for the next generation, the Poettkers decided to invest in two DeLaval Voluntary Milking System VMS™ units for their 120 cows. Since start-up in spring 2016, the family has seen their tank average increase by 10 pounds of milk per cow per day. Labor savings has also been a big benefit of the robots.
“(VMS) has saved us a lot on labor,” says Duane. “Normally, it would take three hours twice a day to milk with outside help. Now we do it all ourselves and spend just an hour fetching cows. This gives us more time to focus on other chores.”
When the Poettkers aren’t busy tending their heifer and bulls calves or working in the field, the family is in the barn caring for their cows. “We try to keep (the cows) dry and clean and the buildings ventilated as well as we possibility can,” remarks Duane. “When we need to move the animals, we do it in a humane way so they stay calm.”
Food safety is also a top priority at Poettker Dairy. In addition to frequently cleaning the equipment and facilities, Duane says they closely monitor herd health: “SCC is down in the new facility thanks to sand bedding and more milkings with the VMS units.”