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Qual Dairy steps up to rotary robotic parlor

LABOR SAVINGS: Cows ride the rotary carousel in Qual Dairy’s new parlor.
SLIDESHOW: A North Dakota dairy is one of the first in the U.S. with a rotary robotic parlor.

Qual Dairy, of Lisbon, N.D., is the second dairy in the U.S., and the 15th in the world, to install a rotary robotic milking parlor.

The carousel parlor — which has 60 robotic milkers on board — dramatically reduces the number of people it takes to milk cows.

Qual Dairy is operated by Alan and his wife, Julie, and their adult sons Mark and John; plus Alan's brother, Rodney, and his wife, Angie, and their adult sons Nathan and Tyler. The six families also run a grain farm together. They employ about a dozen non-family members in the dairy.

When the Quals installed GEA Dairy’s ProQ rotary robotic parlor, they increased the number of cows they milk from 800 to 1,400, and they didn’t add any more employees. And, should all of the dairy’s employees be unable to get to work on the same day for weather or other reasons, the Qual family members would be able to milk the cows themselves

"We can handle a crisis situation," Rod said during their open house. "That gives us some peace of mind."

The Quals have also built a cross-ventilated barn that houses about 1,100 cows. It has labor-saving automation, too, such as manure scrapers, cow brushes and a robotic feed pusher.

The Quals don’t say how much the parlor and barn cost, but it will take about 15 years to pay for if milk prices average $15-$16 per cwt, Alan says.

Click through the slideshow for pictures from the Qual Dairy open house. You can also get a look at how the robotic carousel works in motion by watching the video below.

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