Planning a robotic milking system

The planning and investment needed to transition to an automated milking system may seem overwhelming, but there is plenty of advice available to those thinking of making the switch.

Robotic Milking
Robotic set up 2048 1024 px - ForFarmers UK

Bas van Santen, Robotic Product Manager for ForFarmers advises farmers to start by considering their own goals. “Farmers are driven by different goals whether they want to focus on overall production, Return on Investment, reaching cows’ genetic potential or profit,” he says. “Knowing what your goals are for your business and an automated milking system in particular will influence other elements of the planning process.”

Visiting as many robotic units as possible should be stage two. “See different layouts in action and ask as many questions as possible,” he advises. “Find out as much as you can about their system and why they made certain decisions. Ask what has and hasn’t gone well and what they would do differently if they did it again.”

Cow flow through the building needs careful thought and planning. “An automated milking system should be based around the principle of free cow traffic, where the cow has the freedom to choose when she eats, drinks, rests or is milked, with minimal interference from people or gates.”

To make that possible there needs to be more than enough space at the feed fence and in and around water troughs and the robots themselves. Cows need 4-5kg of water per kg of milk they produce, so access to water troughs is just as important as feed space.

“Think about hierarchy within the herd too. More submissive cows will need space to get in and away from the robot if they are to be able to move freely away from more dominant cows. Avoid any dead ends in the building.”

Labour flow is also an important consideration. Consider how the workforce will enter the building and move around the building when performing daily or regular tasks. “If you have robots at opposite ends of the shed your employees will spend a lot of time walking between them to do routine checks or cleaning.”

Robots cost the same to run regardless of how much milk they are responsible for. Therefore once a system is up and running it is essential to make optimum use of the robot data to make sure everything runs as efficiently as possible. Data can play a key role in improving feed efficiencies too. “The ForFarmers OptiRobot system gives us access to a vast amount of useable data to help you fine tune your system and optimise the milk from the machine.

“It allows our experts to analyse data from six different robot manufacturers. We can look at each stage of lactation to find areas for improvement and identify any pitfalls in your system and where improvements can be made to help you reach your goals.

“We have significant experience to support our view that data holds the key to optimising the performance of robots and maximising the productive potential of the milking herd.”

Bas and customer

Investing in robotics unlocks a new world of improved yield, better feed efficiencies and an improved work life balance too. “But of course it’s not just a question of buying the machines and installing them, it’s a much longer process but the rewards can be enormous if the right decisions are made,” concludes Bas. “Therefore, having the support of experts to advise and support you through the transition and beyond is absolutely vital.”

Get in touch with our robotic specialists

Contact our dedicated team of specialists for advice and how we can help your business.

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