Blue Knoll Farm field day will showcase voluntary robotic milking system

For Release: August 11, 2016

WILTON, Iowa — When Laura Jones and her father Steve Leazer installed a voluntary robotic milking system on their farm last spring, one of the first benefits Laura experienced was more free time. Laura and Steve operate Blue Knoll Farm, near Wilton, which includes a 50-head Holstein dairy.

“Since installing the system, I get to be with my kids more,” Laura says. “Some cows are still learning how to use it – on any given day, there’s maybe three cows that won’t go in on their own to milk. But now, some days when it’s hot, I don’t have to go out to bring them in if I don’t want to.”

Learn more about some of the benefits and challenges of a voluntary robotic milking system at a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day Laura and Steve are hosting on Saturday, Aug. 20, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., near Wilton (1955 310th St., about 5 miles north of town). The event – “Voluntary Robotic Milking and Baleage for Improved Dairy Production” – is free, and will include lunch. Please RSVP for the meal to Lauren Zastrow, or (515) 232-5661, by Wednesday, Aug. 17. The field day is sponsored by Agri-King and Midwestern Bio Ag.

Attendees will learn about some of the benefits of a voluntary milking system – including increased milk production over time, improved cow health and fewer cases of mastitis – as well as some of the challenges.

“It’s not the easiest to train the cows. The first month we had the system was kind of rough,” Laura says. “The first week, you’ve got to have people there all the time getting the cows into the robot. But there are some cows that caught on within three days. The rule of thumb is: three days, three weeks, three months. I added three years, as other farmers have said three years is when you see a huge improvement in all aspects of your herd.”

Other topics at the field day will include cow nutrition, cattle handling, calf feeding, using forages to improve soil health and baleage as a feed source. Guests will also learn how Laura and Steve use baleage for improved forage quality, better animal nutrition and easier feed storage.

Blue Knoll Farm is owned and operated by Laura Jones and her father Steve Leazer. The 315-acre farm has a 50-head Holstein dairy operation, and grows corn, soybeans, alfalfa, small grains and cover crops. Goals for the farm focus on building nutrient-rich soils to provide high-quality feed for cows.

Directions from the west on I-80: Take Exit 271 and turn left (north) on County Road X64. Turn right (east) on County Road F44. Turn right (south) on County Road Y14 and drive 2 miles (all of the roads are blacktop). Turn left (east) on 310th Street; the farm is in about 0.5 mile; it’s the first farmstead on the north side. From the east on I-80: Take exit 277; turn left (north) onto Yankee Avenue and drive about 0.5 mile, then turn right (west) on 310th Street. The farm is in about 4 miles on the north side of the road.

Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2016 field day season features 25 events around Iowa. All field days occur rain or shine, and feature farmer-led discussions and farm or field tours. Details are in Practical Farmers’ “2016 Field Day Guide,” available at, or for free in print.

Practical Farmers’ 2016 field days are supported by several sustaining and major sponsors, including: Albert Lea Seed; Applegate Organic & Natural Meats; Center for Rural Affairs; Featherman Equipment; Grain Millers, Inc.; Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance; Iowa Beef Center; Iowa’s Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (I-CASH); Iowa Cover Crop; Iowa Environmental Council; Iowa State University Department of Agronomy; ISU Extension and Outreach; ISU Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture; Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture; Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES); MOSA Organic Certification; National Wildlife Federation; Natural Resources Defense Council; North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE); Organic Valley – Organic Prairie – CROPP Cooperative; RIMOL Greenhouse Systems; Riverside Feeds, LLC; Soil First; The Yield Lab; Trees Forever; Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture; Welter Seed & Honey Co.; and Willcross Soybeans.


Practical Farmers of Iowa strengthens farms and communities through farmer-led investigation and information-sharing. Our values include: welcoming everyone; creativity, collaboration and community; viable farms now and for future generations; and stewardship and ecology. Founded in 1985, farmers in our network raise corn, soybeans, livestock, hay, fruits and vegetables, and more. To learn more, visit


Laura Jones | Blue Knoll Farm | (712) 461-1583 |
Tamsyn Jones | Practical Farmers of Iowa | (515) 232-5661 |