The Kilchis River winds its way around the Coast Range Mountains before bottoming out in the flatlands at the mouth of Tillamook Bay. It’s a beautiful setting – and home to Kilchis Mist Dairy in Northwest Oregon. The Averill Family has been milking cows there for three generations, and with each new managing family member, the dairy has changed, expanded and taken new shape.
Most recently, Kilchis Mist Dairy transitioned partly into robotics. About half of the farm’s 700 cows – a mix of Jerseys, Holsteins and crossbreeds – are milked by six DeLaval Voluntary Milking System (VMS™) units. The Averills, including Don, his wife, Jo, and their son, Donnie, decided to retrofit an old facility with two robots milking 120 cows and build a new milk barn with four robots to accommodate 240 cows. The milk-first, guided cow traffic set-up encourages cows to visit the VMS an average of 2.5 times a day, while each barn’s automated DeLaval Feed Pusher ensures there is something for her at the feedbunk when she’s done milking.
The six DeLaval Swinging Cow Brushes may be partly to thank, but Donnie Averill likes how calm and docile the cows in the robotic barns are compared to their conventionally milked cows. “The robots let the cows do their thing. As a result, I think the longevity of our cows will increase. Instead of getting 3-4 lactations per a cow, I think we can get 1-2 more with the robots.”
Another clear advantage of installing DeLaval VMS units has been the farm’s reduction in labor. “What we used to do with five people, we can now do with three,” said Averill. While he also noted that they spend a fair amount of time maintaining the robots and keeping them clean, the new automated system has given the Averills the flexibility to do other chores on the farm and, most importantly, more time to focus on the cows, making sure they are healthy and able to milk.
According to Averill, “DeLaval puts out a good product, and we knew DeLaval Dairy service could offer us good support.” But, the real reason to choose DeLaval? He continued, “Their ability to integrate new dairy management technology, like Herd Navigator, with robots. This is the future of dairying.”