10 Smart Barn Facts

As our farmer-owned co-op celebrates its Centennial, and we step boldly into the next century of Cabot, our farmers—as they always have—are leading the way. Using cutting-edge technology, they’re improving animal care, raising the bar on environmental stewardship, and producing even more of the rich milk that makes our award-winning products. How?

Meet the Smart Barn.

Freund’s Farm, East Cannan, CT

Let’s take a tour.

In the Smart Barn, the cows mostly set their own schedule, deciding when to rest, when to get milked, and when to chow down on an all-you-can-eat diet that’s perfectly formulated with regular help from a dairy nutritionist.

Bob Foster – Foster Brothers Farm, Middlebury, VT

Because of this increased independence, an electronic chip on each cow’s collar tracks her movements and milking yield, which gives farmers more time and information to personalize and better attend to each cow’s health and well-being.

 At some Smart Barns, robots bring the cows fresh feed throughout the day. 

Managing barn temperatures year-round can be a costly challenge. To maximize comfort and cut energy costs, Smart Barns are equipped with fans that automatically circulate to cool the barn on hot days. Some of the fans even have misters for extra cooling on the hottest summer days. On cold days, low-energy wall baffles inflate to keep the barn cozy.

Whether sleeping or resting, each cow in the Smart Barn enjoys a cozy, padded mattress. Some barns use sand-filled beds and others even have waterbeds for each cow.

Cows in the Smart Barn love the self-activated bristle brushes, which give them a much-needed scratch whenever they want it—and also help keep them clean.

When they’re ready, cows voluntarily enter a robotic milking system, which cleans them and attaches hoses for milking. While they’re being milked, the system gives the cows a snack based on the quantity of milk they produce, so their individual nutrition always stays balanced. Each cow visits an average of three times a day for six to seven minutes per milking. That means each cow only spends around twenty minutes being milked each day.

To keep the barn floor cleaner, a squeegee constantly scrapes manure into floor grates. It’s a good thing, too, because a single cow can poop up to 30 gallons every day.

On some farms, the manure flows into a digester where it’s converted into electricity for local homes and businesses, or into biogas that can be used to heat hot water or in place of propane. Manure liquids become nutrient-rich fertilizer for farm crops, while odorless solids become comfy bedding for the cows. This closed loop reduces environmental impact and gives farms energy independence.

We think you’ll agree that the Smart Barn marks a huge step forward for sustainable farming and cow care. We can’t wait to see what our innovative farmers think of next.

Amanda, Issac, Rachel Freund of Freund’s Farm in East Cannan, CT

Learn more about our farm family owners.

Comments (47)

Carol Putnam | March 05, 2019 | 3:15pm

Beautiful, my dream farmers! Happy pet happy product! So proud of these farmers! Thank you

Karen Bruno | March 05, 2019 | 3:29pm

Do the cows never go out to pasture?

    Rachael | March 06, 2019 | 9:34am

    Hi Karen – one of our farmer owners Amanda (featured in this post) just wrote a comment on this thread about pasturing – it should answer your question! ~Rachael

Jill Hallock | March 05, 2019 | 4:09pm

love your farm. Cows look very happy. where are pictures of your young stock. love calves.

Angela | March 05, 2019 | 4:36pm

The barn looks lovely and sanitary, but where is the pasture access? Why are the cows all indoors?

    Rachael | March 06, 2019 | 9:35am

    Hi Angela – one of our farmer owners Amanda (featured in this post) just wrote a comment on this thread about pasturing – it should answer your question! ~Rachael

Judy Ann | March 05, 2019 | 4:38pm

My Grand Father milked 150 cows twice a day, retired, in the 60’s, he would have loved this, wow. I enjoyed it a lot, blessing on you and yours, keep up the great strides in the industry and stay safe.ja

W A Nelson | March 05, 2019 | 4:44pm

very interesting!!

Carol Knotts | March 05, 2019 | 4:57pm

Love this!

Charlaine | March 05, 2019 | 4:58pm

This very educational information, just great. Never knew the ladies were so well cared for and that their “left overs” were put to such good use or so valuable.

Antoinette Piotti | March 05, 2019 | 4:59pm

Truly amazing, love how you all care for your animals. We are proud to enjoy your delicious products.

Bert Cordwell ex dairy farmer | March 05, 2019 | 5:19pm

How do they check for mastitis?

    Rachael | March 06, 2019 | 9:33am

    One of our farmer owners Amanda (featured in this post) responded to this thread about your question! Just wanted to let you know. Thank you! ~Rachael

Michelle Young | March 05, 2019 | 5:47pm

This is great and I never knew this was around for cows to enjoy. Thanks for sharing with us.

Rani von Wurttemberg | March 05, 2019 | 5:54pm

Your heart felt innovations for the comfort and happiness for the cows are quite impressive. Now how do you convey that message and information to the Washington DC crowd? Hope other farmers will learn from you.

J. E. | March 05, 2019 | 8:09pm

Looks pretty nice for your cows. But we do wonder whether they ever get to go outside? J&T

    Rachael | March 06, 2019 | 9:16am

    Hi J&T – one of our farmer owners Amanda (featured in this post) just wrote a comment on this thread about pasturing – it should answer your question! ~Rachael

Fran Lumpkin | March 05, 2019 | 9:09pm

Its such a blessing to see how well your cows are taken care of! They are beautiful animals and deserve to be well cared for. Keep up the good work!! 🙂

Dianne Caron | March 05, 2019 | 9:21pm

Beautiful! I Love what you are doing…(looks like the cows love it too).

Gale Woelfle | March 05, 2019 | 9:22pm

Im glad i got to know the people at Cabot creamery Fantastic farmers. All hard workers. Do you ship milk to California? The dairy farmer is a special kind of person.

Denise Schmidt | March 05, 2019 | 11:40pm

Thanks! That was quite interesting.

Mary Bowers | March 06, 2019 | 5:09am

I really enjoy your newsletters! Who knew smart barns existed, this article was so enlighting and these barns are amazing! Meeting the farmers and learning about their farms & family makes buying Cabot products feel like I’m helping a friend!

dotty Sulik | March 06, 2019 | 6:00am

Very interesting Smart Barn concept-lucky cows!

Amanda Freund | March 06, 2019 | 8:44am

Good morning! I’m one of the Cabot farmers that’s featured in this post and I wanted to answer the question about cows going to pasture.
Our family installed the first voluntary milking system in Connecticut (we will celebrate 3 years with robots this month). Previous to milking with robots, our cows grazed on pasture from April through September. But now that every cow in our barn has a different milking schedule, it was not feasible with the land base that immediately surrounds our barn to maintain a rotational grazing schedule. As we weighed the pros and cons of robotic milking and our cow’s well being, we decided robots were still the right choice for our farm, family and cows.
In an effort to make our barn as comfortable as possible for each season, we installed waterbeds for each cow, the rotating brushes you saw at the top of this post (that’s my contented cow enjoying the head scratch), thermostat controlled curtains to keep the barn warmer or cooler and my favorite: variable speed, misting fans! On humid, hazy summer days, there’s no better place to be than in the barn. Each of the farm families in our Cabot Cooperative manage their farms a bit differently and while our farm couldn’t continue to utilize grazing land we have lots of farmer friends that still do. Let me know if you have follow up questions. #farmlove

Elisabeth | March 06, 2019 | 9:03am

Do the cows get outside to eat the grass? What is in their feed?

    Rachael | March 06, 2019 | 9:16am

    Hi Elisabeth – one of our farmer owners Amanda (featured in this post) just wrote a comment on this thread about pasturing – it should answer your question! ~Rachael

Amanda Freund | March 06, 2019 | 9:09am

Hi, Cabot farmer here. Bert asked about how we check for mastitis with the robotic milking system. These robots provide us with so much data and information about each individual cow in our barn. Every time a cow visits the robot we capture data on how long she spent in the robot, how long it took to milk each individual quarter, the temperature of the milk, and the conductivity of the milk. Conductivity is measured by a light passing through the milk lines and if the color gradient falls outside of the normal range, it will alert us immediately so that we can go personally check on that cow and review her milk quality.

Debra A. | March 06, 2019 | 9:48am

Utterly (yes, pun intended) amazed at the obvious love and care you bestow on your cows. I don’t have access to your milk in Florida, but, love the cheese products. Next time somebody tells me I spoil my fuzzy children, I will let them know about the cow water beds. Too funny!!!

Mary E Yokubaitis | March 06, 2019 | 1:19pm

Do cows walking around and get exercise out in the pasture ?

    Rachael | March 12, 2019 | 7:35am

    Hi Mary – check out farmer Amanda’s comment on this thread about pasturing! ~Rachael

lynne sherrick | March 06, 2019 | 9:04pm

Found this absolutely fascinating and your cows look very happy. Continue making great products. Thank you

Elle | March 28, 2019 | 8:27pm

Do your cows get ACV

    Rachael | April 05, 2019 | 12:33pm

    Hi Elle, thanks for your question! Most of our barn have big fans, and some have even water misters for the warmer summer months. I don’t believe any barns are completely enclosed with air conditioning. ~Rachael

Al M | April 30, 2019 | 7:55pm

So Cool !!! Happy Cows and the Cheese is OH WOW. You go Cabot !!!

Let Them Roam Lu | May 01, 2019 | 10:06pm

Disappointed in this robotic milk mill.Having raised cattle my entire life, they need to pasture, move around and absorb sunshine. Sadly, this entire article has me rethinking the Cabot’s brand. Many folks complain about pig mills and this Cabot’s farmer mode of operation depicts the same, just for cows.

Amanda Freund | May 03, 2019 | 1:28pm

Hi Let Them Roam Lu, My name is Amanda and I’m one of the Cabot farmers that uses a robotic milking system on our farm. Thank you for sharing your concern for the well-being of our cows. We 100% agree about the importance of our cows moving around and being able to enjoy the sunshine. I wanted to offer some clarification. While our family’s farm stopped being able to offer grazing for our milking herd, that’s not necessarily the case for all robotic farms. The resources available to each of our member farms are a bit different based on land access and barn location. Cow health and wellness will always be our first priority and after 3 years of caring for our cows in our robotic barn, I am confident that we made a good decision, first and foremost for our animals.

rani2014 | July 28, 2020 | 3:40pm

Interesting ! All cows are indoor. No cows in the pasture. Hmm.

    Rachael | July 30, 2020 | 2:29pm

    Hi there, Every farm is unique in the amount of and type of land they may have. Some is best used for hay, corn woodland or pasture, depending upon the soil and terrain. The use of pasture will vary from farm to farm. However, we do know from past surveys that more than 66% of our Cabot farms do utilize pasture when available – which is only for about four or five months in the Northeast. Hope this helps! ~Rachael

Derek | July 28, 2020 | 4:16pm

I am rethinking the Cabot brand now myself after loving there products for years, The fact that these cows are stuck inside do not get to walk and roam and enjoy simple sunshine is just sickening, Put these farmers in a Cell with back scratches misters and waterbeds see how long they want to stay locked up

    Rachael | July 30, 2020 | 2:29pm

    Hi Derek – Every farm is unique in the amount of and type of land they may have. Some is best used for hay, corn woodland or pasture, depending upon the soil and terrain. The use of pasture will vary from farm to farm. However, we do know from past surveys that more than 66% of our Cabot farms do utilize pasture when available – which is only for about four or five months in the Northeast. ~Rachael

Kay T. | July 28, 2020 | 4:24pm

This is totally awesome! Pampered cows make happy cows and better milk for great cheese!

Marianne | July 28, 2020 | 7:41pm

I see cows with their tail whisks still attached. Nice!!! Good going all around. Congrats!

Debbie J Knebel | July 29, 2020 | 3:54pm

LOVE what I’m seeing here! About 10 years ago I was dining in a very small Michigan town cafe….so small that when we walked in al the locals stared! We ate our breakfast listening to the local farmers – a guy and his son were discussing their robotic milkers and how well it was going. Upon returning home to SC. I had to look into this and was amazed. This is fantastic for the cows and glad to see you have gone a step further with the back scratchers and the beds!!! We used to install systems, mostly for horses, but had one local dairy farmer. He swore that the decrease in flying predators paid for the system many times over…he said the cows were less agitated and happier. Being down south, flying insects are a terrible problem. Best wishes on continued success!

Never Forget the Cheese! | August 18, 2020 | 12:00am

OK, I’ve learned that if I want dairy products from pastured cows, Cabot is not necessarily my brand…..Tough call, because I want to support small farms and farming families. Also, I appreciate use of vegetarian rennet in the Cabot Alpine I’m currently enjoying. Should be obvious, but is Cabot free of artificial hormones? Thanks for the info.

    Rachael | September 04, 2020 | 2:43pm

    Hi there, thanks for reaching out to us at Cabot. We appreciate you sharing what is important to you. As you may already know, our co-op is comprised of more than 800 independently managed family farms from all six New England states and New York.. Each farm is unique in acreage, the type of land they have and the variety of barns utilized.

    In the Northeast there are only 4-5 months of grazing weather, excluding the harsher months of the year. We know that more than two-thirds of our farms use pasture when it is available to supplement the cow’s feed and provide exercise for the animals. The usage of pasture will vary from farm to farm, depending largely upon the season and the type of land available. The main source of sustenance for the cows in our cooperative is corn silage, grass silage, pasture and dried hay (all of these are usually grown on the farm or locally) or a combination of these types of feed. Many of our farmer-owners work with dairy nutrition experts and will supplement the feed with high-energy pellet grain or other commodities if needed to balance the cow’s diet properly. The goal is to give the cows plenty of nutritious food so that they stay healthy and provide good quality milk.

    All of our member farms have pledged not to use rBST. To find the status of a particular product please look for the “NO Artificial Growth Hormone” icon or statement. An rBST-free icon or statement on the package means that the product was produced with milk from cows not treated with rBST. If there is no icon/statement, the rBST status of the product cannot be assured. With this system, you will always know at point of purchase if a claim can or cannot be made. Hope this is helpful, and we appreciate your support of our farm family owners! ~Rachael

Patricia Moffett | September 11, 2020 | 3:16pm

This sounds so wonderful. Does Cabot make a delicious 2% cottage cheese. My favorite brand has changed their recipe and I the curds are floating in milk. This is not tasty.

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