After milking cows for more than three decades, Tony Spaeth’s father has had two ankle surgeries and a new hip in his retirement. “Over the course of his career, my dad milked the equivalent of 2.3 million cows while standing on concrete in a stanchion milking set-up,” explained Spaeth. “He’s only 70 years old, but after all that manual labor during his career, one game of golf takes it out of him for a week.”
Spaeth followed his father into the dairy industry and today serves as BouMatic’s Director of Sales for North America, Latin America, Asia & Oceania. As a son and passionate dairy industry advocate, Spaeth is personally committed to bringing new technology to the marketplace to make life better for dairy producers.
Systems to Make Your Dairy More Efficient
“I can’t help but think that if some of today’s automated animal management systems had been in place in the 1970s, Dad would have saved some wear and tear on his joints. Life would be very different for him today,” Spaeth said.
Spaeth’s BouMatic team works with dealers across the globe to promote milking efficiency. “Our Gemini milking system is designed to make your operation more efficient with fewer people and less wear and tear on your people,” said Spaeth who stops short of describing the Gemini as a robot.
“I know that some in the industry think ‘robotic milking’ has a negative connotation because it implies the system does all of the work for you and completely removes the human component,” said Spaeth. “In reality, the Gemini is an automated cow management system. It's more than just milking; it’s herd information. That information helps you be more efficient.”
New Technology Comes with a Change in Staffing
While the Gemini milking system does not remove the human element from the milking process, it can change your staffing make-up on the farm.
“Today, a conventional parlor will milk 850 cows and with nine people. That’s about 100 cows per employee. However, with a set of eight Gemini doubles, about four people can oversee the milking process for 850 cows. But, the skill set for those people is different from the skill set of the nine hands-on laborers,” explained Spaeth.
“You may cut your workforce in half, but you’ll likely also need to compensate your automated animal management system employees differently,” said Spaeth. “You’re changing your labor pool from a hands-on do-er to a troubleshooter who is monitoring a computer dashboard and making operational decisions when errors or issues arise.”
“You also have to think about yourself and your employees, like I do about my dad,” noted Spaeth. “If you look at the effect on the human body after three decades of milking conventionally, an automated system is a more expensive way to milk cows today but in the end, it saves your body. What is that worth to you? To your family and your employees’ families?”
A Support Staff for Your Automated Milking Systems
While the Gemini system has its upsides when it comes to removing manual labor from the dairy operation, Spaeth and the BouMatic team hear plenty of hesitancy when it comes to integrating new technologies, and the people to manage that technology, into the milking process.
“We talk to dairy producers all over the U.S., Canada and the globe. One of the decisions they need to make before installing a Gemini is how the system will be staffed.
“If your operation has an up-and-coming leader who is not afraid of a challenge and who doesn't shy away from using data to make decisions, then your dairy is a good candidate for a Gemini,” explained Spaeth. BouMatic’s Gemini set-up and daily use is based on a computer and mobile phone system which offers intuitive alerts. “
You have to hire a person, that when something isn’t routine and a prompt is received, that employee can make a judgment call on what to do next,” said Spaeth. He warns producers that those employees are often highly sought after so may require higher compensation.
Dealers Must Serve as Trusted Technology Team Member
The other box the producer needs to check is their trust in their local BouMatic dealer. When the company signs someone into their Master Dealer network, they select partners who have a full-time team who together have experience in hydraulics, valving and computer savvy. “While our set-up is pretty intuitive, we need dealers who think like engineers.”
Staffing For the LIfe of Your Dairy
While the Spaeth family dairy cows were sold when his father retired, Tony admits it's an industry from which he’ll never depart.
“At BouMatic, our team cares about the life of your dairy because that’s the lifestyle we grew up in, know and love,” said Spaeth.
“Our team and our dealers want to help your operation find the right mix of people and technology, automation and convention,” he said. “While making a move to automation and technology-based herd management can be daunting and can change where and how you incur costs and spend your time, it can also add a lot of value.”
“Not only financial value to your bottom line, but to the quality and length of your life.”