Milking equipment companies make a big investment in their displays at World Ag Expo with lots of space and high tech exhibits including equipment installations. At DeLaval, Francisco Rodriguez, DVM, explained the wide range of robotic technologies
Photo Caption(A DeLaval VMS robotic unit mounted on a trailer used across the West for demonstrations and training. A similar unit is used in the East.)
offered to dairy producers large and small, ranging from the complete robotic milking set-ups to teat spray applicators for conventional rotaries, calf feeders and even body condition scoring. As integrated robotics manager for North America, he noted that while today there are 40,000 robotic milking units of all brands on farms globally today, he predicts by 2020 that number will double. And considering that each “box” can handle 60 to 65 Holsteins or 65 to 70 Jerseys, that’s a lot of cows.
The DeLaval approach, according to Jeff Prashaw, is to work with the producer and his dealer from concept to completed project. A management consulting team remains available aimed to problem solve long after the cows are being milked. Information is provided for the dairymen and his team that can be used with the banker and then with plans created for the builder. Assistance with regulatory bodies is also available.
On display at the show was a new free-stall plan that would house 720 to 780 cows and 12 robotic units… VMS or “voluntary milking system” boxes… that would make a load of milk per day, a logistically practical solution. This package can be duplicated, and has been, for larger scale operations. But it was noted that smaller operators can
add units incrementally so that big jumps in cow numbers aren’t necessarily required for growth.
With cow comfort on primary importance, the business rationale for this technology, is not only a reduced labor force but increased production per cow. With high quality forage and feed, a high producing cow can increase her forage intake and allow herself more frequent milkings to raise and extend the production curve.
“The cow can express her individual genetic potential,” Rodriguez claims.
Cow health can improve, too, with measurement of milk weights, conductivey, activity monitoring and even more sophisticated enzyme lactate dehyudrogenase, which allows earlier detection of mastitis.
Another interesting technology available is the automatic body condition scoring every time the cow enters the VMS unit. Using the standard 1 – 5 system, cameras evaluate the cow and record the score, storing the information in the herd management software to evaluate cow health, readiness for breeding and feed components.
All this production, health and body condition information is captured and made available to the dairy manager through the herd management software with a wide ability to customize reports and include other herd management systems, such as DairyComp 305. The data can be remotely accessed on tablets and smart phones, too.
Looking to the future, Rodriguez and his colleagues predict that more and more data – big data – will become available along with improved technologies – better robotic sensors and even more reliable systems – all resulting in maximized cow comfort aimed at handling each cow as an individual, even in large scale operations.
World Ag Expo was held Feb 14 – 16 in Tulare, Calif.