It’s no secret that the dairy industry is in a bit of trouble. Milk prices have been volatile in recent years, and the industry has been struggling to keep up with changing consumer habits. But one company is hoping to change all that with its innovative robotic dairy farming technology.
What Is Robotic Dairy Farming
Robotic dairy farming is a relatively new technology in which robotic arms move cows through their milking cycle, with minimal contact between the animals and humans. This automated process allows farmers to increase productivity while reducing costs and improving the animal’s experience. On dairy farms around the world, over 35,000 robotic milking systems (RMS) are in use.
The Concept Of Robotic Milking
The robotic milking concept was first developed by farmers who, like the rest of us, were simply looking for ways to be more efficient with their time and efforts. They were tired of having to get up at all hours of the morning to milk cows and decided there had to be a better way.
The milking robots use complex computer systems to ensure that each cow receives the amount of milk it needs without being forced or prodded into doing anything. The result is that the animals are fed on a regular schedule and milked without unnecessary stress.
How Robotic Dairy Farming Works
The robotic milking systems are more advanced than those used by some of their competitors. They allow for a much greater degree of automation, including automated udders, cow calls, and even automatic milking. The systems also include an automatic feeder that automatically dispenses the cows’ daily nutritional requirements.
The udders are curved in such a way that, when the cow enters the stall, sensors automatically detect their presence and start the milking process. This can either be done using automatic teat cups, or if the cow is pregnant, she can be milked manually through a machine that readjusts itself based on the pregnant cow’s size.
The system also includes an automatic feeder that automatically dispenses the cows’ daily nutritional requirements. The technology is so advanced it even takes into account what time of day it is and how long it has been since they last ate in order to choose the correct amount of food to provide them with.
How Robots Work In Dairy Farms
The robotic systems have already been developed and tested, and the farms that use them are already reaping the benefits. In fact, many of these farms say they plan on investing in more robots and expanding their operations over the coming years.
The cows are happy, farmers are more productive, production costs are down, milk yields are up, and consumers still get their milk delivered to their doorsteps every single day. It seems like a win-win for everyone involved.
The Impact On Consumers
This new technology allows farmers to continue delivering milk at a fair price while also reducing what goes into each bottle by increasing efficiency across the board. Consumers benefit from increased milk supplies and milk prices remain stable—or even fall. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
Why Robotic Milking Is Good
In terms of milk production, research have found that RMSs enhance milk outputs by 2 – 12%, owing mostly to greater milking frequencies obtained in contrast to twice-daily conventional systems (this particularly pairs well with higher-yielding cows).
Overall, robotic milking is a great investment for any farm looking to build credibility and increase its production. It is not difficult to implement, but you need to be prepared for some changes in your business as you’ve never seen before.
The first step to implementation would be planning out your robotic milking system. This will include programming and training the milking robot, which may be challenging at first.
Benefits Of Robotic Milking
The dairy farmers of the world are responsible for the production of milk. They work hard to provide this vital resource to people all over the globe. Dairy farms are an important part of the agricultural industry, and dairy farmer is a highly respected profession. The higher milk production is achieved through the use of modern technology and efficient management practices.
Larger herds may struggle to see the benefits of RMSs; however, newer technologies such as automatic rotary systems that can perform up to 1,600 milkings per day (enough for three visits of 500+ cows per day) may act to facilitate larger herd sizes; however, these technologies will not be discussed in this article.
The system is so efficient that the farm using it was able to cut its costs in half and, in some cases, even more than that. That means not only are farmers making more money, but they also have to purchase fewer inputs like feed and need to hire fewer workers.
2. Environmentally Friendly
Farms that turn to robotic milking systems are usually able to process far more milk than they could otherwise. That means they require fewer inputs over all and produce a smaller carbon footprint than their competitors. They’re also a lot quieter during operation, meaning the cows are kept comfortable while the robots are up and running most of the day.
3. More Efficient Operation
The robotic systems are designed to milk cows on a regular schedule, which means they’re far more likely to produce at a consistent rate. They’ll also milk the cows at the height of their productivity, making sure they get the most milk possible while also reducing any unnecessary stress on them.
4. Fewer Workers/Higher Productivity
Robotic milking systems typically require only a couple of laborers to operate them, which means the farm needs to hire fewer people overall. That means those who do have jobs can be more productive over all and are less likely to miss out on work due to their workloads or health issues.
Not only are the farms, as a whole, more productive, but they’re also more cost-efficient. With fewer inputs and a smaller carbon footprint, it’s clear that farm costs are down overall. That means greater profits for farmers and better prices for consumers.
6. Less Stress/Fewer Health Issues
The cows who use robotic milking systems experience far less stress during the milking process than they would otherwise. That means fewer health issues, which mean a healthier society overall. It also means happy cows, which translates to higher-quality milk and increased production over all.
7. Reduced Risk Of Animal Abuse
The cows who use robotic milking systems are less likely to be subject to animal abuse because they’re not being forced or prodded into doing anything. They’re allowed the freedom to roam instead of being kept in permanent stalls, and the robots themselves aren’t prone to getting hurt or destroyed by humans. That means less risk and better overall care for cows.
8. Improved Product Quality/Increased Production
The robotic milking systems also improve milk quality and increase production levels more than their competitors. That means farmers can now produce a higher-quality product while also reducing what they need to produce per cow per day.
Disadvantages Of Robotic Milking
Voluntary milking system is becoming increasingly popular on dairy farm as it offers many benefits over traditional milking methods. Automated milking systems can lead to increased milk production while reducing labor costs, making them a very attractive option for dairy operation.
The biggest downside is the $150,000 to $200,000 capital expenditure required for each robot that milks 50 to 70 cows.
1. High Cost Of Entry
Robotic milking systems are expensive to install, which means there’s usually an initial investment to get them up and running. In some cases, the cost makes it difficult for smaller farms to keep up with their larger competitors.
2. Reliance On Electricity/Computers
The robotic milking systems rely on electricity and computers to operate, which means if either one go out for any reason, the entire system will be down and unable to function properly until the problem has been solved. That will ultimately cause problems for the farm, the cows, and their reputation.
3. Risk Of Hacker Attack
Robotic milking systems rely on computers, which means they’re susceptible to attack by hackers and malware. That can lead to their suspension while they’re being investigated or repaired, which also causes problems for the farm and its workers over all.
4. Problems With Programming/Hardware Failure
Any system is only as good as its programming. If something goes wrong with the code used for a robotic milking system, it can cause a lot of issues for both the cows and the farmers using it over all. Hardware issues can also occur, which is why a lot of farms will rely on backup systems to ensure the work is being carried out properly.
5. Not Ideal For All Farms/Lack of Worker Trust
While robotic milking systems are more than capable of yielding great results given the proper conditions, they aren’t ideal for all types of farms. Deep ranches with large amounts of land can usually handle them easily and reap huge rewards in the process, but if a farm isn’t set up in such a way, it’s worth considering whether or not it’s worth using such a system. It may be better to save the cash and continue using manual labor over all.
6. Decreased Farm Productivity/Inadequate Hardware
Robotic milking doesn’t always provide the best results because it’s not always equipped with the proper hardware. That can lead to problems for farmers who think they’re getting more out of the system than they actually are.
It can also cause problems for farmers who rely on their equipment to perform certain daily tasks, since those tasks may not be carried out appropriately.
7. Lack Of Care For Health & Well-Being Of Cows
The robots used in robotic milking systems simply aren’t capable of providing the same level of care as a human worker over all. That means their health will suffer, and they’ll experience more physical problems in the long run. That can mean fewer workers at the farm in the future, which has a negative impact on overall product quality and overall profit.
8. Lack Of Trust/Verbally Abusive Cow Management
As previously mentioned, cows are extremely intelligent creatures who have a very difficult time believing that they’re being abused by humans. It’s also incredibly difficult for them to trust humans who would use robotics to whip them into submission.
They may be less likely to respond positively to commands when they know it’s all automation behind it, which could have negative consequences down the road.
How To Implement Robotic Milking
Milking cows is a daily task on many dairy farms. The milking process typically takes several hours per day. To reduce labor costs, some farmers are using milking robots. These cows milked by the robots and then send the milk to a holding tank. The milk is then collected and transported to a processing plant.
A shift in milking frequency is the principal cause of the change in milk production with RMS. De Koning (2010) discovered that robotic herds increased productivity by 5 to 10% when compared to milking 2X, but decreased production by 5 to 10% when milking 3X.
Before installing a robotic milking system, farmers need to prepare for the change. They need to ensure that the system will fit into their farm and that their overall budget can afford the cost of installation. They’ll also need to make sure there’s efficient power and Internet coverage for the system, which may require some extra research on their part.
The next step in the process is to make sure the robotic milking system is installed properly and that it’s ready for use. There are several steps that need to take place, but they’re generally pretty standard.
The robotic milking system needs to be ready and waiting when it’s time for it to begin working. That means farmers will need to ensure they have all they need set up properly before they can start the process of robotic milking.
While some farms can train the cows to use robots on their own, others will need some additional assistance in setting them up properly once the system is installed. The system will take a good deal of trial and error until it becomes familiar enough with the surroundings for cow management and milk production.
5. Tracking Data
Every robotic milking system will track data to ensure it’s operating at its proper capacity, which will help monitor and improve the effectiveness of the system over time. The data can also be used to create reports for management and for customers to see their overall performance.
The Future Of Robotics In Dairy Farming
The first systems became available in Europe in the early 1990s, and uptake has subsequently increased, with current estimates of presence on around 1,000 farms in the UK (around 10% of all dairy farms).
It’s clear that the future of robotics in dairy farming is very bright. There are already medical advances taking place, and with robots so efficient at carrying out their tasks, there is no limit as to what further advances we can expect to see. In fact, it’s hard to predict just how far robotics might go when it comes to milking cows.
As you’ve seen, robotic milking systems are a great addition to any farm looking to achieve success and increase efficiency. While they have their drawbacks and disadvantages, they’re worth taking a second look at if you’re ready for an upgrade over manual labor in the barn or if you’re just ready for a more automated approach to business as usual.