Cow Taxi Project

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2009: $5,815.20
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
Jeff Lubbers
Lubbers Family Farm
Karen Lubbers
Lubbers Family Farm

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Animal Production: grazing management, manure management, pasture fertility, grazing - rotational, stockpiled forages, winter forage, feed/forage
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns

    Proposal summary:

    Land suitable for farming is increasingly found in noncontiguous pieces surrounding urban areas that are experiencing sprawl. While this pattern works for some agricultural applications, such as CSAs, it is a barrier to livestock farming that requires a relatively expensive infrastructure. Lubbers Family Farm is situated 10 minutes west of Grand Rapids, the second largest urban area in Michigan. There is a great deal of development pressure surrounding their farm, but many parcels remain undeveloped. A recent report by the West Michigan Strategic Alliance showed that Ottawa County (the county in which Lubbers Farm is located) lost in excess of 10,000 acres of agricultural land since 1997. The kinds of discussions that occur at Township meetings indicate there is strong support to leave areas for agricultural operations. To be sustainable those operations will need to be economically feasible.

    Lubbers Farm operates a small dairy, currently a cow share operation, and would like to establish a creamery on the farm. To do so, they need to expand their herd. Land is available in the area, but it is not adjacent to the farm. The cost of a milking parlor, which exists on the home farm, is too high to establish on the scattered smaller pieces of land. If a method can be found to move the dairy animals in a non-stressful way from the various outlying pastures to the milking parlor, many objectives would be achieved. The presence of grazing animals would remain a part of the landscape; the pastures would contribute to the environmental sustainability of the area, and the products produced by the dairy, primarily perishable, would be available to the local community. Selling food locally not only allows customers to establish a connection with their farmers, but also saves tremendous environmental and economic costs associated with global food systems. Lubbers Farm proposes to resolve the problem by developing a "cow taxi" to move the cows around various pastures and back to the milking parlor on a daily basis. A used stock trailer would be purchased and adapted to provide a very low stress environment for the dairy cows and to enable ease of loading in multiple locations. The farm would then switch to once-a-day milking. The costs of this demonstration would be carefully tracked, including labor hours, fuel, capital costs of the cow taxi, milk production and herd health.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.