Thursday, February 5, 2015

Robot Tour

When I throw the word robot out there, dairy farm probably doesn't come to mind first. But that is exactly what I am talking about, robotic milking on the dairy farm. We are excited to be launching into the adventure of transitioning our farm to robotic milking. After much discussion we felt it fit our management style and where we want to take to our herd for the future.

So while our start of date is still a ways away we are currently taking the time to visit as many farms as we can that are currently using robots. We are in the research and development phase of our plan and touring other farms lets us learn from them. Last week on my facebook page I mentioned we were headed on a little adventure; that was to tour 3 farm in Washington that are robotic.
Here you can see the collar the cows wear.  I think they enjoy them as a fashion statement!
On a robot farm the milking is done by a robot that lets the cow visit and be milked as she likes. She enters an individual stall, much like our current parlor, and her information is read from a collar on her neck. That information includes pretty much everything under the sun about each cow, but it gives the robot a map of her udder so she can be prepped and milked. While she's being milked she's eating grains fed according to how much milk she is producing. Each quarter of her udder is on an individual take off, so they come off as she is done giving milk. Once she is completely done she is sprayed with teat dip, the stall opens and she goes back to her day. It's pretty much exactly what we do now, just a robot is doing it. Click here to see a robot in action.

A big part of success in a robot barn is the layout and design of the barn. As the cow is free to come and go as she likes, the flow, as it is called, is very important. The three farms we visited retrofitted their robots into their existing barn, instead of building new like we plan to, but it was still beneficial to see how the cows moved through their designs.

It was also great as all three farms also graze their cows as we do for as many months as the pacific northwest weather allows. Those insights on grazing were very beneficial. Part of grazing success is a sort gate the cows must go through before leaving for the pasture. This gate reads her information on her collar much like the robot and either lets her out to graze and sends her back into the barn as she still needs to be milked.
Graze Gate
One thing completely evident on all three farms is how calm, relaxed and contented the whole herd of cows is. They really enjoy getting to pick their own schedule and that frees up the farmer's flexibility. Since we've announced our plan to move to robotics we've heard lots of people ask what we are going to be doing with all our free time if we aren't milking cows. A farmer doesn't put in a robot to not manage his cows, it's simple another tool we can utilize, I guarantee we won't run out of things to do!

We are all very excited for this adventure. But there is definitely still a lot to learn and decide, it almost all feels very overwhelming at times. Without a doubt though we are excited for this future and what it will bring to our farm, our family and our Ladies!   
Happy Robot Cows!


  1. How exciting! Was wondering how this all worked. Great link explaining it. Kinda blows my visual of you sitting on a 3 legged stool to do milking, lol.

    1. We are so excited! And yes they have come a long ways from the three legged stool!! :-)