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University of Minnesota Extension

Dairy producers connect about robotic milking

Women in front of cows inside large barn
Marcia Endres, U of M Extension animal scientist (left) visits with Lisa Groetsch at Groetsch Dairy in Albany, Minn.

Discussions aid understanding of high-tech dairy systems, cow health and the farm’s bottom line

When Lisa and Steve Groetsch's cows are ready to be milked, they approach a milking robot on their own. The system is humane for the cows and brings flexibility to dairy farmers like the Groetsches.

They have been using the system for a decade, and are making the significant investment in robots pay off. Although the farm employs more people than ever, people they appreciate very much, the robotic system provides valuable data and efficiency. 

The transition hasn’t been without its challenges. Nothing about dairy farming is, but they love their cows and the three young adult children they raised on the farm. Their family’s work means someone gets milk on their cereal or yogurt as their tasty snack.

When they were invited to present to other dairy producers via University of Minnesota Extension’s virtual Robotic Milking Edition webinar series, Lisa Groetsch realized that while she doesn’t see herself as an eloquent speaker, she and Steve had experience to offer.

“To be able to share the good and the bad, and to maybe help another farmer not go through something we’ve gone through, or to help someone to not feel alone in something, that can be priceless,” she says.

Planned to fit farm life

The series is produced by Marcia Endres, an Extension animal scientist who is well known for her research on cow comfort and wellness. She co-hosts the series with Jim Salfer, Extension dairy educator. Webinars are attended live to include question and answer time and then shared on YouTube. The series has registrants from 42 countries.

“Robots are growing worldwide,” says Endres. “My priority is Minnesota, but people are sharing the links and talking about it.” 

Much of the audience is comprised of dairy producers, but there are also industry professionals, as well as students, such as those Endres teaches as a professor in the University’s Department of Animal Science. 

Endres planned the Extension series with input received when she and Salfer surveyed dairy producers in 2020. Producer feedback informed her selection of the virtual format, the 11:30 a.m. time slot on the third Thursday of each month and even the 30-minute duration. 

Unbiased and candid 

Unlike with webinars offered by robotics companies, Extension discusses every brand, every size farm, and every style of dairy farming, including grazing, large and small freestall barns, mixed systems of robot and parlor, robotic rotaries, and more. The audience includes producers at every stage of decision-making, so Endres invites experienced producers like the Groetsches to tell their stories. 

Whether a participant decides to proceed with robotics or not to proceed after learning more, it’s time well spent. 

“Panelists can be honest about what problems they’re having,” says Endres. “We don’t pay producers to present on the webinars. They do it from the goodness of their hearts. Dairy producers are so kind, and they want to share.” 

Register for the Robotic Milking Edition webinar series. Podcast listeners can also hear Lisa Groetsch on The Moos Room, episode 105.

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