an explorer's club of Wisconsin foods and recipes

Robotics Is This Dairy Farm’s (and Your) Bread and Butter

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Well, maybe not bread, but robotics definitely mean butter at JTP Farms in Dorchester!

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As we continue our tour of dairy farms and milking parlor types, I headed to visit the owners of JTP Farms — another family operation, but this time a robotic dairy.  So, meet George Jetson.

Okay, not quite.  Instead, meet the owners and operators:  Tom & Peggy Peissig,  and their son and daughter-in-law, Jake & Tolea Peissig.  Tom and Jake were milking 245 cows when I visited; they milk up to 257 when at full capacity.

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Tom’s been milking since 1978, but the four decided to begin a robotic milking operation in January 2012.  That meant a whole new facility for their operations.  The Peissigs moved their cows from a stanchion barn to a new, cross-ventilation facility with sand-bedded freestalls.

What did that mean to the Peissigs’ way of life and milk production?  A lot.

Most importantly, it meant a 30-pound-per-cow increase in milk production.  According to DeLaval, a corporation that manufactures systems and milk parlor equipment, JTP Farms achieved the highest production for any VMS (voluntary milking system) customer in the world in March.  DeLaval reported that in a seven-day period this winter, the Peissigs “harvested an average of 6,453 pounds of milk, per milking station from their 247-cow herd, equaling about 104.5 pounds per day.”

Those totals are way beyond Peissig expectations.  They had been hoping to average 68 pounds per cow per day in the first year, and 72 in the second.  Instead, within 13 months they had hit 100 pounds (per cow) per day – that’s over 11 gallons of milk to you.

So, how does this robotic operation work?  You might say the robotics are like Tom and Jake’s right arm, since it’s robotic arms that get things done.

First, the cows get in line to be milked.  And yes, they had to be trained to do this.  That can take a month or so, but Tom said the cows caught on in 1-2 weeks.  The cows get milked about 2.8 times per day.  If the cow is not ready to be milked (a scanner reads the chip in their ear), the system boots it out of line to go feed and/or relax some more and come back later.

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If the cow is ready to milk, it walks up to the robotic milking area.  That’s where the robotic arm then washes the udders.

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The robotic arm uses its laser sensor to find the teats to attach the milking cluster.

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Then the robot attaches the milking cluster to actually milk the cow.  The entire process — in, prep, out — about 7 minutes, 15 seconds.

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Yes, this means the Peissigs are proficient in cows and computers.  And, the even better news is that it really only takes Tom and Jake to manage and run this operation.  Jake is in charge of herd management; Tom handles feeding and heifers.  And when Tom and Jake aren’t there and some cow tries to buck the system, the computer calls Tom and tells him “1 escaped” and gives the cow’s number.  :)

Tom (left) and Jake Peissig

Tom (left) and Jake Peissig


The computerized system is all about keeping healthy, happy cows.  Jake and Tom call their cows “beach cows.”  They’re bedded in sand — two truckloads, or 80-100,000 lbs. of sand per week.

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And the ventilation system — involving shades and fans — keeps the beach cows comfortable all year round.  Which means the system keeps it the same temperature outside as inside in the summer, only shady and breezy;  and 30-40 degrees all winter.

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Not to mention the beach cows live in a really clean environment.  A robotic sweeper goes around 8 times per day:  4 times during the day and 4 at night.

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So the only thing left for these beach cows to do is eat…

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Or walk over to be brushed when they want to look or feel good (yes, that’s automated too).

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Tom and Jake sell the beach cow milk — to be made into cheese and butter — to Land O’ Lakes, who in turn, sells it to Grassland of Greenwood.  Grassland is the world’s largest capacity butter producer, receiving over 3 million pounds of milk daily.

It’s a good thing these beach cows are happy, because it takes 21.8 lbs. of whole milk to make one pound of butter, according to the USDA.

And, at our house, my husband believes anything is better with butter.  :)  So I thought I’d share a recipe for compound butter, a butter with ingredients added that become a sauce to enhance the flavor of your main dish.  In this case, I’m sharing a mustard butter that you can use on any piece of pork or beef you throw on your grill this summer.  Here’s what I did with the Grassland.

grassland butter

Mustard Butter

Time:  10 minutes to assemble; a couple hours or overnight to harden

Serves:  4-6


1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 Tblsp. Dijon mustard

2 Tblsp. chopped shallots or green, spring onion

1 Tbsp. chopped, fresh parsley

1-2 tsp. fresh lemon juice

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper


Here’s your basic added ingredients.  After your butter is at room temperature (optimum consistency for mixing in ingredients), chop your parsley, and shallots.

all ingredients w dh

diced with lemon and dh

Then mix the chopped ingredients – along with juice, salt and pepper – into the butter.

mixing chopped with butter w dh

After mixing, form your compound butter into somewhat of a roll on parchment paper.

butter mixed

Next, you’ll roll it in the parchment paper to achieve a roll of butter to slice later.  Twist ends to secure butter and keep it fresh.

rolling butter

Refrigerate long enough for the butter to harden again.  Ideally I do this the day before so it hardens over night and is ready next day.  When you open the butter, you are ready to slice.

sliced closeup

Serve on your grilled beef or pork.  In this case, I served on sirloin steaks with a side of asparagus and a frosty glass of ale.

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Thank you beach cows! :)

Bite This:  Stay tuned for a little cow trivia, complements of Jake, in an upcoming post.

2 Responses to “Robotics Is This Dairy Farm’s (and Your) Bread and Butter”

  1. Kelly Allman


    Holy cow! My how the dairy industry has progressed since my days on the farm in upstate NY! Just wanted to check in and share how much I enjoy your posts! Makes me want to come visit your lovely state. Great writing – keep ‘em coming!

    Your Outer Banks fan,

    Kelly Allman | Senior Vice President
    Marina Maher Communications LLC | Building Brand Relationships
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