Pictured from left are Cheri Popp, of Central Iowa Power Cooperative; Dr. Liang Chee Wee, NICC president; John Molumby, of Allamakee Clayton Electric Cooperative; Phil Hemesath, Northeast Iowa Dairy Foundation vice president; Mike Meissen, of Iowa Area Development Group; Dave Mohr, of Eastern Iowa Light & Power; Gary Kregel, Northeast Iowa Dairy Foundation president; David Lawstuen, NICC Dairy Science program instructor; and Patty Manuel, of Maquoketa Valley Electric Cooperative.
Ten local energy utility companies, as members of the Rural Electric Cooperatives, have donated $19,000 to the Northeast Iowa Dairy Foundation in support of dairy education and a new robotics milking system being installed at Iowa's Dairy Center, located just south of Northeast Iowa Community College's (NICC) Calmar campus on Highway 150.
Rural Electric Cooperatives formally made its donation Aug. 26, and Gary Kregel, Northeast Iowa Dairy Foundation president, recognized the organization for its support of agriculture, the local livestock industry and emerging robotics technologies that are vital to the success of the dairy industry in Iowa.
"Communities where livestock or value-added agriculture are present are more vibrant due to expanding economies and population growth. Rural Electric Cooperatives recognizes the importance of having a livestock industry and we thank them for that," Kregel said.
"They've shown their support of the robotic technology being implemented at the Dairy Center and the Northeast Iowa Dairy Foundation believes that such technology will be instrumental in keeping the dairy industry growing in Iowa."
Rural Electric Cooperatives members include Allamakee Clayton Electric, Butler Co. REC, Central Iowa Power Cooperative, Corn Belt Power, Dairyland Power, Eastern Iowa Light & Power, Hawkeye REC, Heartland Power, Iowa Area Development Group Community Foundation and Maquoketa Valley REC.
In addition to the labor benefits gained through automation, robotic milking systems are also more efficient in terms of their energy consumption, particularly during peak demand times. Energy costs for all customers are impacted by the cost of power that is higher during these periods of peak demand, typically 5 - 9 p.m.
Typical energy consumption for traditional, two-time milking per day dairy operations results in significant spikes in energy demand during their milking times. With robotic milking systems, the demand is leveled out over a 24-hour period because cows are milked throughout the day rather than at designated times. This helps to manage costs for dairy operations and, by reducing energy use during periods of high demand, utility companies will save money and can maintain more stable electricity rates for all customers.
The new $1.7 million robotic milking system, and the construction in progress to build a new addition at Iowa's Dairy Center to accommodate this technology, will also provide enhanced stall conditions for the 300-cow herd, including improved ventilation and bedding with sand for enhanced animal comfort.
"There are also benefits in the long run for the region's dairymen as robotics technology gains ground and support because the introduction of robotics is predicted to improve dairy farmers' quality of life," said Doug Ropa, representing NICC.