You might have seen the construction happening along Route 23 near the start of Route 401 in Elverson. However, you may not have known about the new milking robots prompting the expansion of Kurtland Farms, owned and operated by Tim and Deborah Kurtz and family.
The public is invited to view the Lely Astronaut Robots at their Community Open House on Sept. 7 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Open House will allow families to learn more about this new endeavor and also hear about the farm’s adoption of environmentally sound practices.
The open house is family friendly, with a self-guided tour, activities for children and free milk and ice cream for all. Parking is at the Twin Valley Elementary Center with a shuttle to the new robotic dairy barn.
Reading the Kurtland Farms’ fivefold mission statement with the headings profit, people, leadership, having fun, and honoring God may make visitors want to be part of this new robotic dairy farm. The Kurtz family understands there are general misconceptions in the dairy industry about food safety and animal well-being and they work hard to help people in the community and at large understand the big picture.
A move in the direction of robotic dairy farming is a clear path to maintaining his moderate-sized herd, with a desire to not only maintain a high measure of food safety and well-being for his cows, but to do this all within the parameters of being environmentally sound, Kurtz said.
Robotic milking provides “cow-related information unobtainable in a conventional situation, thereby making it possible to manage animals at an individual level,” according to the Lely Robotics website. Though this helps a dairy farmer make better and more strategic decisions for the benefit of the cow’s health, this is still a lot of work. Tim mentioned that one of the misconceptions of their new expansion is expressed by this frequently heard comment: “Now you can relax. The robots can do it for you.”
Tim knows firsthand that dairy farming is just plain work, robots or no robots. The new field of dairyrobotics enables a farmer to work smarter, but there is no way around the inordinate amount of work it takes to maintain a financially and environmentally sound dairy operation. Yes, the robots help to cull and maintain all the information one could ever want on each and every cow, but humans still must plow, plant and harvest. And until the bright red Lely Astronauts can do more than obtain information while milking a cow, the staff of Kurtland Farms will continue to fix the problems the robots detect.
The community open house for the new robotic farm, on Sept. 7 is an opportunity for the public to view the four robots involved in the milking process. The Lely Astronaut Robots help to provide an environment that minimizes the cows’ stress, provides consistency in milking and reduces the amount of wasted milk that occurs frequently in dairy operations. Visitors will also learn about Kurtland Farms’ commitment to stewardship practices. These practices range from 100 percent no till planting to crop rotation, grazing, recycling manure for cow’s bedding and mulch and the covered manure lagoon.
Kurtland Farms, in keeping with a desire to support local businesses, has invited local vendors to be a part of the day. Visitors can purchase lunch items from Twin Valley Coffee, Stampede Smokin’ BBQ, Churchtown Women’s Auxiliary, Conebella Farm and Allegheny Valley Yogurt.
Local businesses will also be present to show how they were a part of Kurtland Farm’s move from
conventional to robotic farming.