Robotic Milking: Advice from Producers
As part of my summer internship with Form-A-Feed, I had the opportunity to visit with many dairy farmers in the Upper Midwest that are utilizing robotic milking systems. During my visits with the robotic herds, I came across some common advice from those farmers:
- Do your homework!
- Research robot brands and barn designs. Do what works best for you and your farm, not necessarily what is the most popular. Think about retrofitting to reduce cost but recognize the extra production boost from the improved cow comfort of new barns.
- Visit farms with different barn designs and brands and watch them to see how they work. Talk with owners to get ideas of what they like about their robot facility, what things they would change if they could, and visit farms at different times of the day.
- Plan for cow flow and comfort because that plays a big role in determining how efficient the robot is.
- Have a good dealer that is willing to work with you to meet your farms’ goals and make sure they are nearby for when the robots need serviced.
- Make sure you enjoy cows and want to dairy for many years to come!
- Having robots doesn’t mean that you can walk away from the barn. It is absolutely necessary to spend time in the barn each and every day.
- Your time will be spent doing different work than in other setups. For example, fetching cows, checking robot reports, and doing daily cleaning and maintenance on the robots.
- You will have more flexibility with your time, but not necessarily more time. The robots need someone to be on call 24/7.
- To make the investment worthwhile, you need to be willing to stick with the dairy for the long run.
- Don’t hate the technology, embrace it!
- The robot software provides a seemingly endless amount of data. While it may be difficult to learn the language of the robot software and how to use it at first, it can really help you manage your cows better. Find the reports that you think are most valuable or create your own reports, and then use those reports every day to gauge how well the herd is doing and how well the robots are performing.
- If the data is managed well, reproduction and herd health should improve, resulting in a more profitable and efficient farm.
- The technology needs to be utilized in combination with observations in the barn to make it the most effective.
- Learn to Do-It-Yourself!
- Robot breakdowns for longer than a couple of hours depending on typical free time can cause a backlog that takes a full day or more to resolve itself.
- If you keep the robot and area around it clean and stay on top of daily preventative maintenance, you will thank yourself later in extended robot life and reduced breakdowns.
- Learning to do some corrective maintenance on your own will cut down on total maintenance costs.
Switching to a robotic milking system is a great way to stay progressive in the dairy industry, but you need to be fully aware of what you are committing to before making the switch to ensure a smooth transition! If you are considering making the switch to robots, talk with your Form-A-Feed representative. Form-A-Feed has a skilled group of nutritionists that regularly work with robot dairies and can help you research your options and make plans for transitioning to robotic milking!