Carey Prinse (holding grandson Korbin) and Matt McQuillin run Princar Holsteins dairy farm. (Jennifer Feinberg/ Chilliwack Progress)

Carey Prinse (holding grandson Korbin) and Matt McQuillin run Princar Holsteins dairy farm. (Jennifer Feinberg/ Chilliwack Progress)

New barn at Princar Holsteins in Chilliwack data driven for efficiency with robotic milking

‘So much more time to spend with the animals keeping them healthy,’ says Chilliwack dairy farmer

Chilliwack dairy farmer Carey Prinse still rises at 4 a.m. every morning, as he did when he first took over the family farm 40 years ago.

Prinse owns Princar Holsteins with 74 milking cows on the McGuire Road farm he runs with son-in-law Matt McQuillin, and daughter Vanessa.

The new robotic milking equipment they installed three months ago has meant they can mosey into the barn for 6 a.m. rather than before dawn.

Overall the robots make the whole operation much more efficient, faster, and the computerized equipment provides an exhaustive amount of data on every aspect of the dairy.

“It means more freedom,” McQuillin said, adding he gets the data sent right to his phone so he’s monitoring things all day long.

Prinse still remembers the days when bucket-milkers would pour directly into strainers from buckets.

Then it shifted to milk flowing through “pipelines” into a tank, followed by a milking set-up Prinse had with eight stalls. A milking parlour was next, and 20 years later they ushered in the bold new era of highly efficient robotic milking systems.

“The future is here,” Prinse said about their brand-new barn and high-tech equipment.

It’s really state-of-art technology with DeLeval’s latest-model of robotic milking systems.

A high-tech “sort gate” is part of their guided flow system which allows healthy, eligible cows to be milked every four hours by reading their tags. The robotic arm connects the t-cups, with a thorough wash before, and away they go.

“The cows get milked three times a day on average,” Prinse said.

It used to be twice a day, every 12 hours.

Now it’s all on Holstein time.

“They can come in and get milked whenever they want,” Prinse said about the “volunteer” milking system.

The incentive offered is a “sweet treat” of grain the animals get access to as they’re being milked.

The farmers only step in manually if there’s an issue that arises.

“Obviously with two milking systems we have a lot of room to grow,” McQuillin noted. “That’s why we got two.”

One day they could be milking more than 125 cows.

They make a point of providing enhanced care and comfort for the animals, which is part of Prinse’s planning efforts for the next generation to take over.

The barn is temperature controlled with a high-tech ventilation system that kicks in at 15 degrees Celsius to keep cows comfortable in hotter weather.

The cows also get to enjoy a comfy sand-bedding system that comes with a dedicated channel for cleaning and reclaiming the sand for re-use.

Another innovation is the robotic feed pusher. It glides down each row effortlessly nudging the mixed grain feed toward the cows. That makes one less task on a busy farmer’s to-do list.

Does he ever get the feeling that the computerized milking system is smarter than he is?

“All the time!” McQuillin said with a laugh. “I could never remember all this stuff. The information is endless and you can use it to make sure you’re really taking good care of these animals.”

The touch screen on the computer in the barn shows all kinds of data ranging from the number of times they’re milked, the time they came in, to how much milk on average a cow is producing or the percentage of butterfat. And so much more.

“The more you know about the cows, the better we can take care of them,” McQuillin underlined.

“We have so much more time to spend with the animals keeping them healthy.”

RELATED: Robotics driven by innovation, dairy and data

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Matt McQuillin, Carey Prinse, and 16-month old Korbin in the barn at Princar Holsteins dairy farm. (Jennifer Feinberg/ Chilliwack Progress)

Matt McQuillin, Carey Prinse, and 16-month old Korbin in the barn at Princar Holsteins dairy farm. (Jennifer Feinberg/ Chilliwack Progress)