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The Future of Dairy Farming: How Soybeans and Robots Are Reshaping the Industry

By Joseph L. Murphy

Automation helps with our daily lives, whether it’s the coffee maker that starts your morning ritual or the robot that helps put milk on the table.

Farmer-directors recently toured Oakfield Corners Dairy — part of Lamb Farms, a family-owned farm in New York — to see how automation is helping the dairy industry and how soy impacts herd health.

Lamb Farms was founded in 1966 when they started milking 110 cows. Today, two generations and 13 family members are involved in the blended family business. Recently, Jonathan Lamb and his wife, Alicia, along with other family members, decided to upgrade their 60-year-old herringbone parlor with labor-efficient automated milking robots. The family chose a 72-stall robotic rotary system with a robotic milker at each stall.

The rotary system allows cows to step on and off while automatically being milked by the robots. Currently, Oakfield Corners Dairy milks 2,850 cows three times a day. The cows produce about 32,000 gallons (or 275,000 pounds) of milk daily.

“It’s what the farm needed to go forward,” Alicia says. “Any time you start a new operation or begin working with new equipment, there are challenges. And the first year was a pretty significant learning curve for all of us here on the farm, including the cows.”

Not only are they saving on labor costs, but the cows are also healthier and more productive. This high-tech blend of robotics and nutrition powered by soy is revolutionizing dairy farming.

“Our cows are healthy, doing well and milking well,” Alicia says. “Our milk quality is tremendous, so it was a very good decision for the business.”

The automated milking system has helped reduce the need for labor while allowing the family the ability to expand the dairy. They currently have 35 full- and part-time employees, including mechanics, herdsmen and students. One herdsman works with the rotary milker per shift, but they would have needed at least five without the robotic system.

Soybeans are the primary protein source for dairy cows at Oakfield Corners Dairy. They utilize a Cargill nutrition system featuring soy protein to maximize the herd’s nutritional needs.

High oleic soybeans allow dairy farmers to raise or secure an efficient feed ingredient that includes beneficial fat. Dairy cows can consume high oleic soybeans in various forms, including whole soybeans or higher-fat soybean meal ingredients.

“High oleic soybeans demonstrate the innovation of U.S. Soy,” says McRoberts. “While they deliver solutions for frying food and innovative new uses for soy like biodegradable plastics, they also support dairy system profitability.”

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