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Robots milk the cows on this Ohio farm

Louisville, KY (June 14, 2010) – Milking cows at least twice a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year has always made dairy farming a classic case of a labor-intensive occupation. But for one northeast Ohio farm family, the milking part of that equation recently got a whole lot easier, thanks to —of all things—robots!

“We decided to go to robotic milking largely because of labor efficiency and the fact that we’re not as tied to being there all the time,” said Joe Ramsier of Rittman, Ohio, which lies about 40 miles south of Cleveland. “And in our particular system, it also increases milk production and results in a better quality of life for the cows.”

Joe is part of a family operation (105 cows) that also includes his parents Marvin and Teresa, wife Kendra, and occasional help from oldest children Elizabeth, 11, and Kenny, 9. Joe states that dairying today is challenging, with the top two issues being very low milk prices the past couple of years, and competing with urban developers for available land. However the family is pleased to be able to provide milk that is a wholesome, consistent, local, and safe food source that is produced in the U.S., rather than having to be imported.

The Ramsiers are just one of the more than 5,500 dairy farm families in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee with whom Farm Credit Mid-America partners and is proud to salute during National Dairy Month in June.

“Dairy farmers here in the heart of Ohio’s dairy country are passionate about their work and lifestyle, and are entirely dedicated to it,” said the Ramsiers’ financial services officer, Colin Gordon of FCMA’s Wooster office. “They’re a great breed of people—smart, hard-working, honest—they’re really the most rewarding part of my working with Farm Credit.”

The Ramsiers began using the robotic milkers in April and were one of the first farms in Ohio to do so. Their robots are not the R2-D2 variety of Star Wars fame, but rather are two large stationary devices that the cows enter voluntarily any time they feel the urge to get milked. The process is entirely automatic, including providing a grain pellet as a reward for the cow entering the machine, and thoroughly cleansing the cow’s udder before and after the milking.

Joe says that about 85 percent of the herd is now going through the robots on their own an average of 2.8 times per day, compared to just being milked twice before. (The other 15 percent are still being physically herded through the machines). Once inside the robot, the totally computerized system not only does the milking, but also gathers valuable herd management and health data from each individual animal.

For the Ramsiers, going robotic essentially amounted to swapping less labor for more capital in the form of the robots, which are not cheap. For years they have relied on Farm Credit Mid-America as a consistent, cost-effective lender for their operating, equipment and real estate loans, but had never approached Gordon about anything like robots before.

“I was a little skeptical at first, but Marvin and Joe are excellent managers and they’d obviously done their homework,” said Gordon. “It actually seemed like a perfect fit for their operation.”

Joe reports that the new system seems to be working pretty well, which he hopes will result in keeping the family’s dairy operation going for years to come.

“It’s what I grew up doing,” said Joe. “I enjoy getting to see the beauty of God’s creation with the sunrises and sunsets, and I enjoy working with my family.”

To help Farm Credit Mid-America celebrate National Dairy Month, click on to enter their Dairy Photo competition. Just upload an image of your favorite photo of dairy – milk, cheese, cattle, etc. – for a chance to win a year’s worth of free ice cream!

Monday, June 14th, 2010 Customers
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