Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Robotic Milking of the Dairy Herd

The most remarkable thing about the farm where the Canadian Foodgrains Bank celebration was held was the robotic milking machine for the dairy herd.  I had heard of this in the area, but had never seen it in action.

There were lots of cows around that you could say hello to.  Notice the tag hanging around her neck.  All of these cows are electronically linked to computer records of what they eat and the milk they produce, so every cow is tracked individually, standard practice on dairy farms these days.

This farm has a moderate sized herd, about 60 cows, all Holsteins.

These two were in the milking parlour, waiting their turn for milking.

And this is the magic, very expensive machine, developed in the Netherlands.  Cows enter it at the right hand side, when the gate swings open after the last cow leaves.  They get a little treat for encouragement (obviously an important part of getting the cow to enter the machine regularly), and the computer sensor records which cow it is, when it was last milked, and so on.  When it's finished the gate on the left side opens and the cow leaves, opening the right hand gate for the next cow.  The machine does everything; the cow just walks through.

This is the machine from the other side, where you can't see much to be honest.  But the vertical stainless steel pipe in the middle is the working part of the machine, now extended under the cow, with the milking cups attached to the teats.  This machine is capable of sensing precisely where each teat is, washing them, and then attaching, and later removing the milking cups.  While this is going on the computer screen shows the data being recorded, including milk production, average production, number of times milked today, and so on.  This machine can handle a herd of about 60, given each cow coming through 2-3 times per day.

There are disadvantages to this system, especially the cost, but the savings in labour, the increase in comfort for the cows, and the improved monitoring of individual cows are all big advantages.  The farmer doesn't even have to be in the barn; the machine will call you if there's a problem.  The cows (in most setups) can enter whenever they wish, so the number of times they're milked usually goes up a little, leaving them more comfortable.  And the detailed records of each cow means that you can tell immediately if a particular cow is not producing as she usually does, usually a sign of a problem worth checking.  The health of the herd can be improved as a result.

I was really impressed with how well this works, and particularly interested in the benefits for the cows themselves.  Farming keeps changing!

21 comments:

  1. Oh my! I had no idea it has come to this level of sophistication. Very interesting and impressive. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very robotic indeed, I wonder if in the next century all ordinary milking machines will be outdated. However, down here, many herds have hundred of cows, some into the thousand or more, and those huge farms employ men or their families just for the milking.

    ReplyDelete
  3. All too familiar, soon tractors will be driverless, controlled by GPS and computer. Like in most other industries this will remove the tedium from day to day labor, but will also remove the employment of many workers. No society is prepared to deal with unemployed, unnecessary people with outmoded skills and neither the education nor desire to enter high-tech fields. Sorry about the rant.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hard to believe that when I was a kid and worked for the local farmer on the weekends we used to still milk some of the cows by hand since all the sheds were not equipped with machines.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wow milking sure has come a long way. I wonder how the milk the cows on the dairy farm along my walking route.

    ReplyDelete
  6. All things farm related are like something out of Star Wars....my brother farms with tractors that drive themselves through the field, guided by some GPS tracking system. Amazing.

    ReplyDelete
  7. How amazing!

    I know how to milk a cow but this sure makes it a science.

    ReplyDelete
  8. very cool and anything that's better for the animals is awesome in my book. i enjoyed the images!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Modern technology is quite amazing. Having grown up on a dairy farm I know how much work is involved. I think this is a wonderful use of technology, and no doubt they will become more common.

    ReplyDelete
  10. oh my... how far milking has come. this definitely is better than bent over, back aching and dodging the cow's tail swishing your head! LOL
    those are the days I remember. I really like that it is so focused on the health of the cow, and thus, the overall herd.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Farmers have come a long ways...but I would still want to wash those udders myself...and those cows looks awfully muddy/poopy to me. I suppose a certain amount of dirt/poop is acceptable. :(

    ReplyDelete
  12. Amazing! I like it that the cows themselves can decide when they need to be milked.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Milking has moved on a bit since Fred Abrams used to walk to the farm twice every day (including the days when he was "on holiday") to do the milking. A milking stool and a bucket was the only equipment that he needed.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Wow. I had no idea of this. There are a couple of large dairy farms in our area and I'm wondering if they have this updated equipment for milking. This is really interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  15. It is impressive! What an amazing invention.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Great!! It is an excellent invention. This is wonderful technology for milk processing in dairy farm.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Beautiful animals! The technology is impressive.

    ReplyDelete
  18. You want to buy the grooving machine price in india to get low cost ask the dealer sendhamarai engineering is one of authorised dealer in india.

    ReplyDelete