Finding a dairy in Northeast Nebraska is like looking for a taxi in New York City. It’s not hard. However, finding one like Demerath Farms is much more unique.
Demerath Farms is a family-owned operation in Antelope County located between Brunswick and Plainview, and for years, they have worked dairy cows using the traditional methods of every dairy farmer. However, when it came time for an update, Bill Demerath and his family decided it was time to make some major changes.
“We needed a new freestyle barn. So we were just looking into freestyle barns and updating old facilities,” Demerath said. “We knew the robots were out there, and we wanted it designed right for robots to eventually go in there. Through the last five years of research, we just ended up going ‘Let’s just put the robots in.’”
Those updates gave Demerath Farms the unique distinction of being the only fully robotic dairy in the State of Nebraska. They showed off their new upgrades on Saturday when they hosted an open house for several thousand people.
“I tell people to come see for themselves and they’ll find out it’s not little robots chasing cows around,” Demerath joked.
Visitors were given tours of the facilities and a meal was provided for everyone by Tiger Tavern of Osmond. Demerath noted that it was an exciting day for he and his family, a day that was a long time coming.
“Getting all the permits was fun,” he joked. “From day one of construction, we started in April of 2016. Our first day of milking was this February 21. So it took roughly just under a year to get everything up and going.”
Before the robotics came along, the Demeraths spent much of their day just milking cows, making it difficult to get much else done around the far. However, now they are able to track everything from computer monitors thanks to what Demerath describes as “Fitbit”-style trackers on each cow. The trackers communicate with the milking robots and the computer program to give a variety of readouts on each animal.
Those programs simplify the process for the family and frees them up to do all their other tasks around the farm.
“We still have our chores,” Demerath explained. “We come in morning and night and catch our fetch cows, the ones that don’t come to the robots. It gives us flexibility. We can do that anytime now. We aren’t set on a certain schedule like we were in our old barn. If something comes up, we can go do something and come back and finish what we were doing.”
Another added bonus is the increased production. Besides more output, it allows the Demeraths more time to focus on the cows to keep them healthier and take better care of them.
With the designation of becoming the first of its kind in Nebraska has come lots of intrigue. Demerath said they have had people from all over come in and ask his family for guidance in starting their own robotic dairies.
“They come in interested,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of people talking about putting these in. There’s one breaking now and another guy talking about it. We’re starting to see if we can’t get this thing rolling down here and get the dairy industry up and going around Nebraska.”