But Warren says that number has been steadily dropping ever since. Prior to making the change to robotics, the farm’s somatic cell count ran between 100,000 to 120,000. Now, nearly a year after switching to the robotic milkers, the levels are close to evening out at 135,000.
Milk production has also increased, with each cow making about six or seven more pounds of milk than they did in the tie-stall barn. Warren says they now average about three milkings a day with the robots.
Because the success of the robots varies from operation to operation, with studies reporting mixed results of the fledgling technology, consumers might find it difficult to understand what robotic milking means for their food.
“I think the general public has a problem with the concept of a commercial facility or a factory farm,” Warren says. “We hear those terms a lot. I think the public wants to know that the animals that produce their food are well taken care of. And I think in a robotic facility, managed right, you’re not going to be able to give them any better environment to make the milk that they do.”
It’s up to each producer to weigh the benefits and disadvantages of robotic milking and choose the milking system that works best for them. For the Warrens, the positives have outweighed the negatives.
“I would never, ever go back,” Warren says.
GEA brings robotic milking to large-scale farms
Technology is changing the way many dairy farms operate across the country. Most notably, robotic milking has been embraced by more and more farmers, helping them better manage their small and mid-size herds.
Now, larger farms have access to similar systems that can help increase profitability and quality of animal care without the need to add employees.
In 2014, GEA Farm Technologies, Inc. introduced DairyProQ, which the company’s website claims is the “world’s first fully automated, per stall, robotic rotary milking parlor.” GEA is now offering the DairyProQ in the United States.
For larger farms, robotic milking wasn’t considered a viable option given if there was an equipment failure, herds would be too large to milk in a traditional fashion. However, GEA representatives say DairyProQ helps address those concerns by incorporating individual robotic modules on each individual stall. If one module goes down, it will not impact the operation of the whole system.
“(DairyProQ) is built with a smooth, cow-friendly design that makes it easy for cows to enter and exit stalls,” says Matt Daley, head of GEA’s milking and dairy farming sales in North America. “Additionally, the ‘plug and play’ robotic modules have been designed so one can be removed for service and replaced with no interruption to operation. Your cows and your milking schedule stay right on track.”
Each stall unit on the DairyProQ rotary has its own robotic module, and is designed to automate the entire milking process. Teat cup attachment, teat prep (including pre-dipping), fore-stripping, stimulation, milking and post-dipping are done within the liner, in one single attachment. The unit is automatically removed and backflushed between milkings to sanitize the cluster between cows.
Special needs cows or those needing individual attention, can be milked on a semi-automated (manual) basis as needed.
For more information on the DairyProQ, contact GEA at 1-877-973-2479.