Nor-Bert Dairy, Stop #3 on Kentuckiana 2013
Written by Sherry Bunting
Nor-bert Farms was started near Bremen, Indiana, with six cows in 1935. Deb Dankert’s parents Norman and Bertrice christened the herd Nor-Bert Farms. Today, the partnership includes Deb and her husband Roger (Dankert) and their son Jeremy and daughter Jennifer and her husband Monty (Freeman). Grandchildren Dalton, Dillon and Breanne are also at various stages of helping with chores, even though the chores look a little different here due to robotics.
In 2010, the 1969 parlor was abandoned in favor of the Lely robotic milking system consisting of three units. A Delaval automatic feeder is also used to feed grouped calves after they receive individual bottles for the first 10 days of life. The automatic feeder generated questions and discussions among tour goers. With the automatic feeder, Deb Dankert explained that calves can suckle as often as six times a day to receive up to eight liters of milk per day.
“It lets me know if a calf is down on milk consumption so I can figure out what may be wrong,” she said.
At Nor-Bert Farms 142 cows milk in the three robot units an average 3.1 times per day. The herd includes 116 Holsteins averaging 100 lbs/cow/day. The overall herd average for Holsteins and colored breeds is 94 lbs/cow/day.
The Dankert family explained how the cows receive TMR set for a 75 to 80 pound production, and then each cow gets her additional individual energy needs met in the robot. Thus, the cows are “chasing energy and that draws them to the robot.”
The operation includes a buffer tank to receive milk while the truck is doing pickup from the main tank. The robot operates 24/7, but does shut down for one hour out of every 12 hours for wash down and the milk filter is changed twice a day when convenient.
A ‘failed milking’ list is generated so that those few cows can be fetched to the robot.
The robotic milking setup was accomplished as a retrofit in existing facilities with add-ons instead of building a brand new facility. It is set up for “freeflow,” which the Dankerts described as being a system where “the cows are in control.”