Pete Maslyn Dairy Manager, Hemdale Farms Seneca Castle, New York Robots may be the method of milking cows at Hemdale Farms, but technology has not replaced old-fashioned creativity and ingenuity. The dairy’s manager, Pete Maslyn, has cleverly crafted an alley scraper into a dual-purpose feed pusher.

Coffeen peggy
Coffeen is a former editor and podcast host with Progressive Dairy. 

Seventeen Lely robots milk the herd of 1,000 dairy cows located in New York’s Finger Lakes region. The first robot barn was built to accommodate four automated milking units in 2007. The design included two rows of head-to-head stalls and one feed alley. Due to this configuration, there was an extra cable running through the alley between the stalls and the curb for the headlocks.

Maslyn saw an opportunity to give that extra cable a purpose. By cutting the concrete and moving the corner wheels out, they repositioned the extra cable to run along a concrete groove cut into the feed alley. The guys working in the farm’s shop fabricated a simple steel scraper paddle and affixed it to the portion of the cable running through the feed alley.

The feed pusher works in tandem with the alley scraper, both running back and forth on their respective sides. When the feed pusher reaches the end of the alley, its design allows it to swivel and turn so feed can be pushed up on the return pass.

One of the greatest benefits of this invention is that it consistently keeps feed in front of the cows, which eliminates the need for additional labor. In the past, a skid steer was used to push feed 10 times each day. Now, feed is pushed up roughly every hour without additional equipment or employees. Each time the alley scraper runs, so does the pusher. As Maslyn points out, “There is never a time when the bunk is empty.”


The pusher requires little maintenance. Routinely, the channel in the concrete it follows needs to be cleaned out, but overall, this simple design runs smoothly. Among the dairy’s several barns, there are three of these pushers. However, their six-row barn with a center feed alley employs a robotic feed pusher for the job. PD

peggy coffeen

Peggy Coffeen
Progressive Dairyman