Robotics are changing the dynamics of dairy businesses, and co-evolving along with them.
“Today, conventional dairies spend 50-60 per cent of the total labour on the physical act of milking cows, (and) only 10 to 20 per cent on feeding cows, five to 10 per cent on health, and the other 10 per cent on management,” says Francisco Rodriguez, DeLaval integrated robotics manager.
Robotic milking shifts the equation, enabling a business to expend just 10 per cent of its total labour on milking, and 50 to 60 per cent moves toward management.
“Now people are using technology to their advantage, and being able to make better and faster decisions.”
Robots for every operation
Since their inception, automatic milking systems have evolved to fit all types and sizes of operations.
“Now it doesn’t matter the size. We have learned that a robot is a robot, a cow is a cow, and when you set up the robots in the right configuration, they can work in any environment, and any size of dairy.”
In addition to the availability of a hybrid approach to automated milking, grazing operations in New Zealand, Australia, and Chile are able to incorporate robotics as well.
“There are three elements that keep cows flowing without human intervention – the first one is dry matter intake or feed consumption, water intake, and rest,” says Rodriguez. “Whenever we work with those three, we motivate cows to do almost anything we want without human intervention.”
The grazing system gives cows the opportunity to move to new feed through the robotic parlour, as well as the freedom of milking more times, if desired.
Looking to the future
When it comes to where we will be in the next five to 10 years, Rodriguez believes there will be continued movements towards efficiency, but also a look at carbon footprints and environmental issues, perhaps towards self-contained dairy operations.
“That’s the ultimate goal that I see, is us not only producing food, but being the filter of the world, and really contributing positively to the environmental impact.”