LOCAL NEWS

Midway Dairy Features New ‘Farm To Fork’ Tour, Shows Off Robot-Supported Barn

Mar 8, 2019, 6:35 PM | Updated: 6:43 pm

MIDWAY, Utah — With a degree in mechanical engineering, Russ Kohler says he never imagined that he would choose to carry on the family dairy business.

“If you would have asked me in high school if I was going to be a farmer, I would have told you ‘no way,'” Kohler said. “But when I got away from it, that’s when I realized how much I really did love it.”

The now owner and manager of Heber Valley Artisan Cheese, Kohler shows customers how a 3.5 million dollar, robot-supported barn helps keep the family dairy going.

“My great-grandfather was milking 12 cows when he first bought the dairy, in 1929,” Kohler explained. “We’re milking 150 cows here, yet I could give them probably even better individualized attention than my great-grandfather could with his 12.”

A cow in Kohler's barn gets a back scrub.

A cow in Kohler’s barn gets a back scrub.

The series of robot-powered devices tend to the cattle, helping Kohler keep tabs on how each of them are doing. Computerized collars send them information on the health of the cows.

“We’ve got robots that clean the pen. We’ve got robot back-scratchers. We’ve got robots that milk the cows themselves. We even have a feed pusher,” Kohler said.

The high-tech element of Kohler’s tour can be impressive.

“It’s fun to see how the cheese is made, on the back end,” customer, Katie Bednar said. “I was kind of surprised. They’re like barn-roombas, basically. They clean everything, and milk everything.”

Beyond the technology, Kohler is hopeful that tour participants will learn something else.

“Dairy farmers are really struggling right now,” Kohler explained. “And so this is a valuable tool for us to be able to help people understand what dairy farmers go through, and what their life is really like.”

Kohler said that dairy farmers today struggle.

“The price of milk right now is lower than my dad remembers when he was a boy,” he said.

According to the USDA, roughly 42,000 dairy farmers have sold their farms and gone out of business since the year 2000, nationwide.

“We’re in a unique situation where we sell the cheese, we have a niche market,” Kohler said. “But the reality for dairy farmers right now, is it’s pretty tough.”

The new tour runs Mondays through Saturdays. People can buy tickets online here.

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Midway Dairy Features New ‘Farm To Fork’ Tour, Shows Off Robot-Supported Barn