Chuck Deichmann, organic farmer and local milk producer, utilizes a revolutionary way of milking his cows with two "robots" on Willow Creek Farm in Belmont, NY.
Stretched across 365 acres, Willow Creek Farm has been in the Deichmann family since 1974, and in the hands of Chuck since 1995. He milks 90 cows, raising them from birth with his wife, four children, and three employees on the farm.
Though the dairy had always used organic methods, Chuck had the farm officially certified organic in 2000. Since then he has provided organic, hormone-free, milk for local processing and distribution throughout stores in New York.
To keep up with this rapid production and to be as efficient as possible, Chuck turned to technology, adopting the unique technique of "robot milking." His farm was the first organic farm in the nation to use a robotic milking system when it was installed in 2007. In 2008 he installed a second robotic milker. Here's how it works: Chuck's cows are trained to enter a machine that reads whether or not the cow is ready for milking. If the cow is ready, the machine feeds her, cleans her udders, and milks the cow. This system allows Chuck to produce 60 pounds of milk per cow, every day. Chuck's ability to produce considerable quantities of milk with this process is essential to being able to provide a large number of New Yorkers with the best product.
The switch to robotic milking has greatly improved the lives of his cows, as well as the lives of Chuck and his family. He says the cattle are noticeably more relaxed while waiting to be milked, and are not overcrowded and pushing each other in a holding area. Rather, they are able to "free flow" around the barn. Not to mention, milking almost one hundred cows twice a day is very time consuming. Chuck is thrilled that this system efficiently takes care of such a large chore and responsibility, allowing him to spend more time with his family, and more time working in the field.
Financially, the investment in technology was considerable, but Chuck estimates that he will recoup the expense of both systems within five to seven years, owing to the labor savings and the increased milk production. Of course, the extra time he can now spend with his family as his children grow up is priceless.
Eager to share what he does, Chuck leaves the farm open to the public. He offers tours of the farm, encouraging people to become more aware of where their food comes from. Visitors are able to explore the process of robotic milking, and sample some of Willow Creek's dairy products.
During a time where America's dairy farmers are facing some of the biggest challenges, Chuck's passion for, and dedication to organic production and the quality of his family's life on the farm has left him with a very profitable and successful dairy farm. "My wish is to have this farm continue after I am no longer manager, and that there is someone there that would like to carry it on," says a proud Chuck.
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