Sunday, August 3, 2014

Visiting a Robotic Dairy Farm

 I had the chance a while back to visit an amazing robotic dairy. Yes robots milk the cows on this farm. It was a very educational visit and something I had never seen before. Technology is moving fast in agriculture, as it is in all aspects of life, and it was fun to witness what wonderful things can be accomplished.

This particular dairy that we visited has two robots which milk their 120 cows. Each robot can milk about 60 cows, and that is with each cow getting milked 2 or more times a day. The robot is stationary and the cows learn over time that they must come to the robot when they want to be milked. It was amazing to see the cows waiting patiently in line for their turn. No one was having to push them into the stall where the robot was. They went in willingly and calmly stood in place. I was told that one way they entice the cows into the milking stall is with some feed that they like. As the cow enters the stall the robot scans their ID and records how many pounds of milk that cow produced and how often they are coming to get milked. As you saw in the video above lazors are used to visualize the udder and place the milkers. Since the robot never needs to sleep the cows can come to get milked at their own schedule. Some may like a noon and midnight milking while others may like milking at 7am and 7pm. This flexibility leads to calmer cows which increases productivity.
Paul and my dad are walking down the large open barn where the cows and robots are.
 Robotic milkers were not the only robots on this farm. There was also a robot feed pusher. This robot ran off of GPS and would go up and down the bunk pushing the feed up so the cows always had fresh feed to eat. For quality production of milk it is important that the cows always have fresh appetizing food to eat.
There was also a robotic scratcher that the cows could walk under for a nice rub down. Who doesn't like a nice back rub every one in a while. Another example how happy, comfortable animals will perform and produce higher quality products for us.

 Between milking and eating time the cows rested in stalls filled with sand which is both comfortable and sanitary for them to lay in. The sand is sloped so that the head end is higher than the tail. You can see in this picture that the cows tail has been docked, which means the end was cut off when she was young. This is done to many agricultural animals including sheep, pigs and dairy animals. For this cow her tail was docked to help keep her udder clean. The long tail could have gotten manure on it and then transferred it to the utter. Without the hairy end of the tail the udder stays cleaner. Flies are controlled in the barn so the cow never misses the end of her tail.
David says hello to some cows
 We all had a fun time visiting this dairy. My oldest son Simon is very interested in robotics and when he heard that there was a dairy that used robots he was so excited to learn about it. A place that combined his two passions in life, robots and agriculture. For days after our visit he looked over the pamphlets and talked about all we had seen.
I snapped this photo as we were leaving. I thought that it was both picturesque and a visual example of how agriculture and technology can live together and flourish. Thanks for visiting. 

No comments:

Post a Comment