Fourth generation cheese maker Jean Rossard stepped down from his Montchevre goat cheese business in Belmont, Wisconsin, USA in 2018.
But he wasn’t quite ready for retirement so when his son Simon became interested in raising dairy goats, Jean took the chance to pass on his knowledge to the next generation.
Jean and his sons, Simon and Julien, set out on a venture which would lead to establishing a new dairy, The Laughing Goat, LLC in 2019.
They started on a farm lease with 400 animals near Darlington WI.
Simon trained on the Darlington farm from 2018 and about a year later the family decided to set up their own dairy, near their home by Belmont in Lafayette County WI.
That’s when they started to look around for a new goat milking system.
They spent a year reviewing the options with several dairy dealers, visiting milking plants in the US, Canada and France.
“We decided to go with the Waikato Milking Systems 60-bail goat rotary parlour to replace our 2 x 16 rapid exit stanchions and an archaic feed system,” Jean said.
“Our goal was to find a simple milking and feeding system, with technology, built using high quality materials to resist a harsh farm environment and of course to be animal friendly.”
The Waikato Milking System rotary satisfied most of their requirements. Plus, the company’s midwest team was in Verona, WI, about one hour from the farm, which was a major selling point.
“We knew that if we needed an urgent service repair or to obtain critical replacement parts, we could do that right away.”
The family was impressed with the rotary design and its lightweight composite deck.
They liked that the inflators, pulsators, vacuum lines, milk pipeline were accessible outside and inside the rotary.
The rotary platform, stalls and components were mostly built of stainless steel hard plastic and rubber.
The family began to set up Laughing Goat in the Northern Hemisphere fall of 2019 but Covid-19 arrived in March 2020 which held up delivery of barn equipment.
“Fortunately the rotary was ordered in August 2019 and it was delivered from New Zealand just before the pandemic.”
They moved to the new farm on April 16, 2020.
“The local contractors and the Waikato Milking Systems team did a good job of getting the building ready to assemble the parlor during the pandemic.”
Jean said the rotary is easy to operate and safe to use with just two people, one to take care of the milking and the other to move the animals around and for post-dipping.
The platform operates with a simple switch to put it into milking or cleaning mode. Another switch controls the platform speed or rotation per minute.
In March 2021, Jean said the plant was milking about 300 goats, with another 90 to freshen.
“The rotary is set at 7.5 minutes per rotation which is capable of milking about 480 goats per hour.
Simon manages the animals with help from his brother Julien. Jean works as the farm adviser and helps out with the animals too.
Simon said it took a few weeks for the goats to learn how to use the rotary and to switch over from the old inline plant.
“They had to get used to all of the moving parts of the rotary and get the idea of the grain dropping down in front of them for enticement.”
Milking is twice a day.
“We just have one person at the operator console putting the milkers on, and another one bringing the goats through from the pens and post dipping as well.”
Milk collections are about twice a week and the farm supplies to Saputo, to its processing plant about 5 miles or 8 kilometres away in Belmont where the product is made into goat cheese.
The new rotary will allow the farm to increase productivity to 1000 milking goats in the near future.
Jean pointed out the rotary’s quick stop and start feature. The operator can pull on a blue line above their head for a quick stop and quick start.
The red line can be pulled for an emergency stop which needs to be cleared and reset on the control panel to resume milking.
The goat rotary also features an automatic cluster presentation arm unique to Waikato Milking Systems.
It automatically returns the cluster to the platform height, ready for cupping, so the operator does not have to constantly bend over to reach for the clusters.
“The automatic detach is also a good option which saves a lot of walking around the rotary.”
The only challenge setting up the rotary was learning how to use the dairy management software.
The family worked with their local Waikato Milking Systems representative from Belmont, and with the company’s technicians in New Zealand via audio-visual, to calibrate, create groups and manage the feed system.
“It is a great tool to manage, schedule the amount of feed and feed choice that needs to be dropped per animal, per day in a selected group (lactate, dry or freshen group).”
The feed weights can also be automatically increased or decreased per goat in a group through the year on a weekly basis.
“The feed weight control is definitely a saving factor knowing the high feed price per ton and a way to be sure each goat is getting the right amount of feed.”
Jean said the dairy management software has other useful features like milk volume data per animal and per milking, animal alerts and animal health history.
The family said overall the rotary plant had lived up to expectations and they have hosted many other farmers interested in seeing the new system work since it was installed.
“We show them the whole picture, talk about the rotary, about how the feed system works, how we operate.”
The cluster presentation arm and the automatic detach features stood out as two areas of interest for visitors.
Jean said if he was to wish for any additions, it would be a pre and post dip system to keep the Somatic cell and bacteria count under control.
“But we definitely think the Waikato Milking Systems goat rotary parlor and feeding system were the right choice for our farm.”