The Sprunger Family
Dairy Farmers from Dalton, Ohio
Bob Sprunger is a fourth-generation dairy farmer from Wayne County, Ohio. Together with his wife Barb, their son Scott, and daughter Amy and her husband Mark, they care for about 160 cows and raise corn, soybeans, hay and wheat.
Why did you decide to invest in robotic milking technology?
Bob: We strive to do better all the time. I’ve been in dairy farming all my life. I first milked with a pail milker when I took over ownership of this farm in 1969. Since then, I’ve gone through five different types of milking systems. Two years ago, we invested in three robotic milkers. It’s been a complete change for me. We can see every day when a cow was milked and how much milk she produced. We’re still here and hands-on — it’s just a different kind of hands-on.
Barb: In any business, you have to keep up with technology so as not to slip behind. It’s the same with dairy farming. It comes from our hearts and from our kids’ hearts that we want to be here. The milkers were a financial investment, but it’s a family farm, and we knew, to keep our kids continuing the tradition, we had to make that investment. Technology also helps us with hiring. We can do much more with less help.
HEAR FROM THE FARMER
Listen to Barb describe family farms
How does technology affect how you care for your cows?
Bob: We care for the cows the same as we did years ago. Animal care has not changed. If anything, the technology has made it easier to detect problems. It often lets us catch things more quickly. If we see on the computer that a cow’s activity isn’t up one day, we can go out and see what’s going on. It’s still very personal and hands-on.
Our mission statement for the farm has a lot to do with heritage, so family is very important to us.
What does it mean to have your family involved in the farm?
Amy: I grew up here, and I actually left my job to come back. My husband, Mark, has been working here for five years. We all work together, which can be difficult sometimes, but I would say the family time is the biggest benefit. I get to spend more time with my daughter, and there are so many things she gets to experience growing up on a dairy farm.
Barb: Bob always says it gives him goosebumps to think both of our kids came back to the family farm and that it’s going to continue. Our mission statement for the farm has a lot to do with heritage and continuing the family line, so family is very important to us.