From horse and buggy to automated milking systems, this Century Farm has seen it all

Gone are the days when Golden Gate Farms in Abbotsford, British Columbia had its shipping done in cans and transported by horse and buggy. Today, the Yoder family utilizes two Lely Astronaut A4 automated milking systems, a Lely Vector automatic feeder and the Lely Grazeway to provide them with flexibility for their diverse farm.

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Established in 1912, Bradner Farms, renamed Golden Gate Farms in 2014, is located in Abbotsford, British Columbia and has seen dairy farming progress over the last century. Originally farming daffodils, tulips, broilers, pigeons for squab and running a small dairy, the first generation of the farm milked cows by hand, shipped in cans and transported goods by horse and buggy. Becoming a certified organic dairy in 1998, Bradner Farms was the first farm in western Canada to ship organic milk.  

Now run by Martin and Sarah Yoder and their daughter Mikaela, the farm boasts two Lely Astronaut A4 automatic milking systems, one Lely Vector automatic feeding system and one Lely Grazeway.

Previously, the Yoders used a double-4 herringbone parlor with no automatic take-offs and a manual enter/exit. It had 40 free-stalls, a pack area that was built in 1990 and no fans or ventilation systems. The young stock was housed in a rented facility.

After Sarah’s brother, Rob Donaldson, purchased three Lely Astronaut A4 robots, the Yoders began their own plans for designing a new barn. After touring many farms, traveling as far as Manitoba and Ontario, the Yoders decided the package of Lely Astronaut A4’s, the Lely Vector and the Lely Grazeway was the most cost-effective and efficient option available to them. The new layout would also enable them to fulfill their goal of designing a barn in which one person could do every job.

Golden Gate Farms is now able to house its young stock in the old barn after revamping stalls and headlocks and installing tunnel-ventilation. The calves are kept in comfortable calf suites, in an area that was previously used for hay storage. The Yoders also turned the parlor into the service room and milk taxi area.

The new barn boasts 90 free-stalls, dual cow chamber water beds, five calving/boxstall pens, a 10-foot feed alley, tunnel-ventilation in the summer and cross-ventilation in the winter. The new barn also includes the two Lely Astronaut A4s, the Lely Vector and the Lely Grazeway.

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The Grazeway ensures the cows are milked before exiting to one of the Yoder’s 26 rotating fields. If the cow gets rejected from the Grazeway, it sorts back to the barn. The cow then learns to go through the automatic milking robot before trying to exit the barn. Once she is milked, the Grazeway will let her out to the pasture. 

The Lely Vector works well with the Grazeway, distributing feed on demand. “We did not have a mixer wagon at the time and it was more economical to go automated in that division aside from the other feed-efficient benefits it holds,” Sarah Yoder said.

The Yoders have noted the efficiency of the Vector as there is rarely feed left over, allowing them to only clean the bunks once a month. They only need to load the feed kitchen every three days, taking only two hours each time. The accurate mixing the Vector provides compared with a mixing wagon results in less feed waste, saving Golden Gate Farms 600 lbs of feed/day. The data the robots give allows unparalleled management of the cows as it detects any health issues early.

Between the dairy and the broiler operation, — where they raise 20,000 broilers — Golden Gate Farms has one employee alongside the Yoders, which is fewer than they needed prior to using Lely products. The flexibility of their new operation has benefitted the family and farm beyond just the cost-efficiency.

“It is nice to be able to rely on the robots to do the work so we can manage the cows and work in the other divisions,” said Sarah Yoder.

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