When Martin Daugherty was a child, he had to milk two cows by hand before going to school. Today the family farm has four robots that automatically do all the work.

Bill and Caroline Daugherty knew if they wanted their family farm to have a solid future for the sixth generation, they needed to make some changes.

“What we were milking in was 50 years old,” Bill Daugherty said. “We had four parlors that my dad had from 1970. We were very limited with what we could do.”

When their two youngest children, Kyle and Andi, were still in college, the family took a trip to visit four dairy farms to see how they ran their operations and how robotic milking machines worked for them. The largest of the farms had 1,100 cows and the smallest had 120. They also looked at farms while traveling to other states to watch Andi play basketball with her team at Ashland University.

“When Kyle graduated and we knew this is what he wanted to do, we sent him to a conference in Wisconsin,” Bill Daugherty said.

The two-day conference helped attendees with robotic milking barn designs that would help make their operation more efficient.

Once the barn was built and the four machines installed, they had to get the cows used to the new routine.

“We had 20-30 volunteers a shift helping,” Caroline Daugherty said. “They caught on very quickly though, and we had minimal trouble with them.”

The cows are fed grain while the robots milk them.

“It’s like candy to them,” Bill Daugherty said. “They want to come back. The robots will know though if it's not been a long enough time for them to come back.”

In addition to being a more efficient process and allowing Bill Daugherty to sleep in a little more, the barn is a better environment for the cows. “They have sand bedding, and there is better ventilation in here with 40 fans,” he said. “It got really hot in the old facility.”

The new barn also has a flush system that takes care of cleaning the walkways of manure six times a day. They also have a robot that pushes feed to the cows.

Kyle Daugherty said the barn was designed to milk up to 600 cows. They were milking 132 and just hit 200 on June 4. “If Sam (his wife) and I have kids, we will be able to milk enough for all our families,” he said. “This barn will be able to carry us through our entire life.”

Kyle Daugherty said he enjoys grain farming too, but you can only go so far with it. He felt his family had more opportunities to grow in the dairy industry. The new barn, however, also does help them with the grain side of the business. With the robots they don’t have to stop working in the fields to milk the cows.

“We would not have done all this without someone younger coming in,” Bill Daugherty said. “In five years we might have gotten out. This was a huge investment.”

The family plans to hold an open house later this summer.