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4-H Lego teams see how dairy farms utilize technology

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 October 2016 at 9:16 am

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ELBA – Three teams in the Orleans 4-H Legos program visited two dairy farms on Monday to see how the farms use technology to milk cows and improve efficiencies in their operations. Jeff Post, co-owner of Post farms on Batavia-Elba Townline Road, gives the 4-H’ers a tour of the farm, which uses four robots to milk cows.

This year all of the First Lego League teams in the country have to do a project on “Animal Allies.” The Orleans 4-H’ers in the FLL program are researching animals and will need to present that information during next month’s competitions. The 4-H’ers also need to build and program a robot to perform different tasks.

There are three teams in the Orleans 4-H program competing in the First Lego League. The local program is led by Erik and Marlene Seielstad of Albion.

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This photo shows a robot milking a cow. Post Farms added the robots seven years ago. Jeff Post said the robots are reliable, saving the farm on labor costs. Technology allows the robots to keep track of each cow’s milk production (an average of 78 pounds a day). Sensors are used for the robots to see the udder and attach to the cow.

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This cow takes a peak at the group visiting the farm. The cows milk on their own schedule at Post Farms. The farm is expanding and adding more robots.

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Post Farms also has a windmill that provides about one-third of the farm’s electricity.

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The 4-H’ers also visited Lamb Farms in Oakfield, one of the largest dairies in the state. Lamb Farms uses a rotary milking parlor that can fit 60 cows. The farm uses technology to help detect any health issues with the animals, track milk output, determine the best times for breeding and other issues, including cow comfort.

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Lamb Farms added the rotary milking parlor 15 years ago. Matt Lamb, co-owner of the farm, said milking cows remains a physical job with lots of hand labor at Lamb Farms. He estimated that only 1 to 2 percent of cows in the country are milked by robots.

Lamb Farms also has a manure digester that uses the methane gas to power engines, creating electricity.

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Emma Foote of Barre takes a picture of the cows on the rotary parlor. Emma and the other 4-H’ers visited two farms to get ideas for their projects in the First Lego League competition.

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