SoDak Stories: Garretson family bringing tech to the farm
It's a friendly subculture. These cows of Cottonwood Ridge know they're special.
East of Garretson, the Nussbaum's dairy operation is one of a kind in South Dakota.
"It came to a point where we said if we're going to go forward with the two girls, our two daughters, and bring them into an industry we obviously knew the girls had a passion for, we knew we were going to have to be prepared and look ahead. This seemed to be the way to go," said mom Monica Nussbaum.
After years of research, the Nussbaums decided the international company Lely could best bring their dairy into the 21st century.
"(I) make sure they're getting in the robot, getting used to it, liking the pellets," said daughter Stephanie Nussbaum.
From their two milking robots to a robot named Juno.
"He'll push up the feed every hour. So, instead of us having to be here and stop what we're doing, go get the skid loader, and push up feed this is his one and only job," said Stephanie.
This dairy is unlike any other in the state.
"We are really proud to have the first facility here in South Dakota to be a brand new barn with robots. You know there's a lot of other dairies here with robots here in South Dakota that have retro-fitted the robots into their barns. We're excited to be the first one," said daughter Brittany Nussbaum.
The Nussbaums believe in providing ultimate cow comfort. It starts with a collar and its transponder.
"It has a pedometer in it. It shows her activity for the day. It will help with heat detection for breeding and artificially inseminating. It also has rumination in it. It's placed specifically on her left side on her muscle so that when she chews her cud it shows that she's ruminating and eating. So, we can catch anybody not feeling well a lot sooner than if we were to see her in the yard not coming up to the bunk," said Stephanie.
"That also helps us with the product that we're producing. That allows us to know that we're producing the safest product. If that animal is not feeling well that milk does not go into the food supply," added Brittany.
At their leisure, the Nussbaum's cows are milked six times a day.
"It's kind of like a spa background for the milk cows if you want to think about it that way, because here they get up and go when they feel like it. You can tell in one glance everybody is quiet and happy and content. Some are eating, some are sleeping, some are right here in the common area around us watching what we're doing," said Monica.
This spa-like setup is environmentally friendly too. There are slats in the barn's floor for the cow's waste to drop through.
"And, then with the pit underneath of the barn to capture the manure. We'll reuse that manure on the crop ground to fertilize the crops," said dad Brad Nussbaum.
The Nussbaums also reuse their water and circulate a steady breeze in the barn which keeps flies away without using chemicals.
"By having re-engineered, specifically designed side walls we can shut the lights off. We use mother nature's sunshine," said Monica.
From beginning to end, the Nussbaum's robotic, green dairy barn took about nine months to construct. They started milking in it in mid March, and they say they've already noticed in up tick in their cows' comfort and production.
"It will show me how many hours it's been since they've been in the robot," said Stephanie.
Most importantly, this operation makes both generations proud to continue their contributions to the dairy industry.
"It's a great place to raise kids. You can teach great values, business sense," said Monica. "The other thing is we believe in what we produce all the way from the crops to the milk."