29 TECHNOLOGY HELPS NEXT GENERATION SUSTAIN FAMILY DAIRY FARM JOHN LAWFER – KENT, ILL. John Lawfer is the third generation to milk cows on his family’s farm, Willow Valley Dairy Farm, near Kent. Rather than doing the milking by hand like his grandfather did, John utilizes robots to milk the cows. This technology helped John become a partner in the farm with his dad and mom, Ron and Julie. In 2014, the Lawfers built a fabric-covered, free-stall barn and installed three milking robots. Cows enter the milking station on their own schedule, while a neck transponder identifies each animal and tracks various health and production statistics. Robotic feed pushers also help improve feed efficiency. The Lawfer family milks about 160 cows, including Holsteins, Jerseys, Brown Swiss and Ayshire. John and his fiancé, Elise, will be married in August. “I wanted to continue the family tradition of the dairy, but trying to find reliable, physical labor to handle the milking became a struggle. We decided to invest in robotic milkers to help with the labor needs and improve our efficiency. This technology has helped me continue the farm and has improved our milk quantity and quality. I am blessed that my parents were willing to make a significant investment in the dairy.” – John Lawfer LIVESTOCK HELPS FARMER RETURN TO FAMILY FARM FULL-TIME ASHTON GRONEWOLD – CARTHAGE, ILL. Ashton Gronewold knew that getting started in farming would not be easy, but he was determined to make it work. After receiving a degree in Engineering and working away from the farm, Ashton realized that he wanted to return to the family farm full-time. Livestock provided an opportunity to be able to grow and allow multiple families to prosper. Ashton farms with his father, Merlin, and his brother-in-law, Evan Davidson. They grow corn, soybeans and hay, along with their 350-head cow-calf operation. In 2017, the family built a new deep-pack cow-calf monoslope barn. “Our family has raised cattle for many years, but the addition of the new cow-calf barn allowed us the opportunity to add 150 cows to our farm without increasing the number of acres of pasture.” - Ashton Gronewold for young people to return to the family farm and even become first-generation farmers.