Do you know where your milk comes from? If you drink cows milk you may or may not be familiar with dairy farms and how they have traditionally produced your milk.
Back in the olden days, hand miking was how we obtained milk. Dairy farmers would use force to squirt out milk from nipples on the cow’s udder. They would fill barrels with fresh, creamy milk and bring it to market on a wagon for sale. Hand milking continued in western countries up to the 19th century. The most popular breed of dairy cow the world over is the Holstein Fresian dairy cow.
Now, however, things have changed, dramatically. In Chile, South America, work is well underway on the world’s largest robotic milking dairy farm. Yes, you read that right. There will be up to 6,500 cows on this farm and robots will be used to produce milk.
The type of robot that does the milking is a DeLaval VMS robot, and the El Risquillo farm has at least 48 of them.
Robotic automation reduces costs, increases productivity and actually gives the cows a greater degree of freedom as the system allows the cow a degree of autonomy.
How does the cow get more autonomy?
In this system, the cow can choose her time of milking freely throughout the day. You see, milking is linked with feed time. The milking unit doubles as a source of food, giving the cow a reward each time she enters the unit. Additionally, the system scans the cow’s identity collar and records essential data.
Based on the identity tag, the machine knows the cow’s biologic data, such as her body and udder shape as well as data like the last time she was milked and the amount of milk given. The machines can even measure that rate at which milk is given from the teat. Now if the cow has recently given milk, the robot won’t take any.
Pedro Heller, the chief executive officer overseeing the rollout of the milking robots in Chile has this to say:
“The benefits have been remarkable. More production, better animal welfare conditions and less stress for the cows”
The farm started using robots for 500 cows and after economic benefits were realized – a 10% production improvement and less stress on the cow, robotic milking was expanded.
How does robotic milking actually work?
A robotic arm approaches the cow and identifies the teats. Spinning brushes gently roll along the cow’s belly, providing a dual purpose of teat cleaning and stimulating. Once the teats are stimulated, the cow is ready to give up her milk.
Another arm, fitted with tubes, comes in and attaches to the teats. Hi-tec robotic lasers guide the arm and tubes. The tubes create a vacuum that sucks the milk at a customized rate, depending on the cow’s biology scan. The robots even test the milk for quality.
Global Spread Of Milking Robots
More and more farms around the world are turning to automation for their milk production processes. Over 22% of Dutch farmers now have a milking robot. (Countries such as Australia, Finland, Germany, Japan, Sweden and The Netherlands now make significant use of milking robots and systems.
According to a report published by Business Insider Australia robotic milking to expected to grow about 40-50% over the next seven years in the United States.