Family farm prepares for next generation farming with new dairy building and robots

When John Lawfer left the Kent, Illinois, family farm for college in the early 2000s, he had no intention of coming back. His parents, Ron and Julie, were milking 140 cows with less labor and a 1960s-era barn built for just 100 cows.


But then, John discovered robotics during an internship in Plattesville, Wisconsin.


“He came back and said that he really wanted to put robotics in, and we were like, ‘No, we’re not,’” Ron said.


Over time, John convinced his dad that robotics would help make labor more efficient and even allow the family to grow their operation. But first, they needed an updated facility that could handle the new equipment.


John had worked with Accu-Steel to install a few hoop buildings on his property previously. When he approached the company about a new cattle building in 2014, they had a new option for John.


“I’d gone and looked at some tunnel ventilated barns and cross ventilated barns, and I just wasn’t impressed with them,” Ron said. “This one had a solid truss-type construction. We had never looked at anything like it because they weren’t being built at the time.”


After hearing more about how the Accu-Steel structure was engineered, the Lawfers bought the building sight unseen. With the building’s clearspan space, they could fit their two new robots in and still have plenty of room for their growing herd to roam. 


Accu-Steel was also able to customize the building to Ron’s specifications, including high sidewalls, maximized airflow and a steeper pitch on the roof to deal with snow load.


Once the building was complete, Accu-Steel sent the engineers who designed the structure for a site visit.


“They hadn’t done a dairy building before, and they wanted to understand why I requested some of the things I did,” he explained. “We were able to help each other in that way. And truthfully, I have had zero issues with the building.”


The space has helped him take better care of his cattle. With the previous outdated building, Ron could only get 70 pounds per cow on average. Now that number has risen to 85, which he attributes to greater cow comfort.


The building upgrade and robotics implementation means time on the farm is more flexible.




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