Some of the calves seem a bit curious about who is taking their picture.
Mary Matsumoto photos
An impressive row of calf pens can be found at Robinway Dairy Farm.

And instead of cleaning the cow’s teats by hand, an automatic brush does the job. It scrubs them, dries them, and treats them with citric acid, much different from the days of his forefathers.

Robinway Farms is a five-generation operation. His grandfather worked a farm just up the road from Jay’s business on Ucker Point Creek Road. Coming from a large family, Jay’s father, Robert, started his farm on the present location in 1957. The original barn still stands there, somewhat out of place, considering the style of barns that have been put up since that time.

Better ways of doing things

The old barn was a stanchion barn. Cows were herded in from the pasture to be milked by machine. Then, in 1971, Robert added a double six milking parlor. In addition, he erected Harvestores to store the silage, something Jay doesn’t use today. It’s more efficient to pile his silage outside, packed air tight to keep moisture out. Each day, workers simply shave a fresh layer from the “loaf,” keeping a smooth face, and feed it to the cows. No breakdowns preventing the grain from getting to the animals like in the old days when they depended on the Harvestores.

When Jay purchased the farm from his father in 1994, he owned 200 cows.

“With 200 cows you can do everything yourself,” Jay said. “You’re your own herdsman, and when you’re done doing your herdsman work, you go out and cut hay, and when you’re done with that, you come back to help milk the cows, feed the cows. You’re kind of in charge of

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everything yourself.”

A real lifestyle change came when Jay increased his herd to 400. He had to hire a full-time herdsman. With 700 cows, an assistant herdsman was introduced to the staff, and at the 1,000-animal mark, a mechanic and calf manager came on board. Two employees feed the cows while one gathers, brings them in, and herds out the cows that are finished milking.

More managerial role

Now, rather than hands-on farming from morning to night, Jay spends his day consulting with managers to set up a plan for the week. He makes sure every-thing’s running smoothly. He manages crops and does the purchasing.

Recently, Jay has been busy setting up a new irrigation system. Some years the rain level might be adequate enough, but in farming, it’s all about timing— getting water when it’s needed. Rain at the wrong time can be just as bad as no rain at the right time. Then, too, with a controlled water system, he can produce even more crops.

It’s all about getting more out of the land because the price of land has gone up, making it more cost efficient to put the money into the land he has.

“The price of land has gone from $300 to $400 an acre in the 1980s to $6,000 an acre,” he said. “That’s a big change.”

Because of the price of land, Jay has gone into partnership with four other farmers in the area who share a piece of land in Colorado near the Wyoming border for raising heifers from about five months of age until they are two months away from giving birth. That way, they can milk even more cows up here.

With so many changes in farming within just one generation, what does Jay predict for the future?

Community dairies on way?

“I think we’re going to see bigger dairies, community dairies,” said Jay. “Instead of each one building a milking parlor somewhere, they’re going to say, ‘Let’s combine our money together. Let’s build one dairy set up.’ It’s more efficient.”

Manure will be managed differently,

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