Running a dairy farm is labor-intensive. It requires farmers to accomplish backbreaking, repetitive, and monotonous physical tasks day and night, with low levels of motivation, but tremendous pressure to maintain good quality, product specifications, and eliminate contamination. Labor costs could reach a whopping 50% of the entire product cost. Into this arrives robotic milking machines as much-needed relief to boost production and profitability in of farming.
Technology today allows dairy farms to automate much of the complex and repetitive tasks, using robots, and provide more control and speed over the production and processing of milk.
One of the use cases of robotics and automation in the dairy industry is automatic milking systems (AMS), aka milking robots, which replace the practice of milking by hand. They provide greater flexibility of milking times and frequency than conventional milking systems, eliminating the need to milk cows at regular set times.
Each cow in a robotic milking platform gets an electronic tag that allows the robot to identify it when the cow enters the milking unit electronically. The robot reads the tag and provides a feed reward customized to the cow’s level of production and schedule. Then the robotic arms proceed to clean the teats, attach the milking cups on each cow.
Each quarter is milked individually, and cups are removed based on the milk flow from each teat, thereby minimizing the over-milking of each quarter. This type of advanced system milking can occur throughout the day and night, with limited human interaction.
The benefits of automatic milking systems (AMS) are far-reaching. Cost-cutting in terms of less workforce is the biggest advantage, as AMS doesn’t require too many people to operate or monitor. The milking frequency can increase up to three times per day. On a typical day, it can reach 2.5 times per day.
Improvement in cow health is another big outcome. AMS causes less stress on cows. Quarter-by quarter milking reduces the udder infections, and with less milk to store, the cow feels less stress on the udder and more comfort. The robot can monitor everything from blood in the milk, conductivity, to yield per quarter. The management of the herd becomes easy and efficient.
The world’s first robotic milking rotary was unveiled by Swedish dairy equipment company DeLaval at the farm at Quamby Brook, Tasmania, Australia. Featuring five robots, the rotary could reach the cow from the side and milk up to 90 cows per hour. With laser technology, the robots determined the location of the cow’s teats for cleaning and attaching the cups. Once the milking is complete, automatic liquid filling and finishing systems could get the product ready for the market.
This post will present the top 9 best robotic milking machines in the market today. The machines are listed in no particular order.
1. GEA DairyRobot R9500 Milking Robot
GEA DairyRobot R9500 brings a new level of intelligent milking to your farm. Engineered with an open, cow-friendly, and adjustable design suited for different cow sizes and breeds, the GEA R9500 is perhaps the only robot that performs everything in the liner – stimulation, teat preparation, forest ripping, milk harvest, and post-dipping – in a single attachment.
The DairyRobot R9500, equipped with sensor-based technology, welcomes cow after cow, helping the farmers manage every step in their lactation. It uses a G5 Time-of-Flight (TOF) camera on the MilkRack to detect the position of the cow’s teats to automatically and precisely apply the teat cups on the teats, creating the gentlest and consistent milking. This TOF principle allows for maximum attachment reliability in a matter of seconds. The robot comes with a large 12″ touchscreen display, management, and monitoring tools, including FarmView, to monitor real-time events in easy-to-read graphs.
During milking workflow, the optional GEA DairyMilk M6850 cell count classes sensor monitors every udder quarter of every cow at every milking. This cell count analysis in each udder quarter can more accurately detect subclinical mastitis infections and benefit directly from faster treatment periods. With a few clicks, you can get a current picture of animal health or switch to monitoring milking parameters.
Read more about GEA DairyRobot R9500 Milking Robot.
2. Lely Astronaut A5
Lely Astronaut A5, designed to deliver top-level usability, longevity, and reliability, creates a healthy and stress-free milking experience for both the farmer and their cows.
Instantly following every movement of the cow during milking, and remaining close to the udder, the robot quickly corrects itself in case of any unexpected movement, ensuring a fast and thorough milking, even with heifers.
Post-milking teat spraying, upgraded with the new Teat Detection System (TDS) that pre-scans the udder before spraying, ensures optimal udder hygiene while limiting the risk of contamination.
The intuitive user interface makes automatic milking clear and easy-to-use for everybody. From a cow’s first milking to everyday maintenance, all relevant information is available on one single page. Instant actions, such as feed allocation, cow-specific routing, and daily maintenance tasks, are just one click away.
Read more about Lely Astronaut A5
3. Fullwood M²ERLIN
Fullwood M²ERLIN is the new milking robot by Milkomax, a company behind the revolutionary Tie-Stall AMS. Manufactured by the British company Fullwood Packo, the M²erlin comes with a large touchscreen Herd Management Interface (HMI) as standard. It provides onhand information on key information such as milk flow, milk yield, and cleaning, without having to return to the farm office.
Designed with the farmer and herd manager in mind, M²ERLIN is a straightforward system to operate. From the HMI, you can enter a cow ID, give extra concentrate, and even allow her to leave the crate or move into a separate segregation area.
It has plenty of choices when it comes to having the right information at the right time to manage their dairy herd. The options available provide everything from raw data on the operation of the robot right through to in-line milk analysis, which is available on a tablet or smartphone.
Read more about Fullwood M²ERLIN.
4. ASTREA 20.20
ASTREA 20.20 comes with a new generation 20.20 laser, robotic arms, and scanning technology to guarantee a quick and reliable milking process with lower stress levels and reduced risk of injury to the cow.
It has a robust construction in combination with the use of durable materials, such as easy-to-clean stainless steel. The ASTREA milks naturally in 4 phases:
- The pre-stimulation and cleaning of the udder.
- Milking, with the option of animal-specific milking settings.
- Removal, whereby the current milk flow determines whether removal can take place for each udder part and
- Milk pumping, whereby the milk is separated or transferred to the central milk cooling tank depending on its quality.
Read more about ASTREA 20.20
5. DeLaval VMS
DeLaval, a worldwide supplier of milking equipment for dairy farmers, introduced its new DeLaval VMS milking system V310 in 2019. Built on the VMS V300, launched in 2018, the VMS V310 has the new feature DeLaval RePro for detecting heat and pregnancy automatically during the milking process. The features like DeLaval InControl, DeLaval PureFlow, and DeLaval InSight are standard on both systems, with DeLaval RePro exclusively on the VMS V310.
Using progesterone based sampling and analysis, DeLaval RePro provides insights into the reproductive status of each cow in the herd. DeLaval VMS V310 is the first milking system that automatically confirms pregnant cows. It improves cow health and reduces veterinarian costs since the cows become pregnant at the right time with more productive lactations.
Read more about DeLaval VMS
6. Milkomax’s Robomax
Milkomax’s Robomax combines the Fullwood milking with M2erlin technology. It is the world’s only robotic solution allowing a dairy farmer to manage, within a single software, a herd with both tie-stall and free-stall cows. Milkomax offers an entirely automated solution, including the essential buffer tank. Milkomax’ milking robot Tie-Stall AMS for stanchion barns can be adapted to your existing building and set up to minimize modifications to your barn.
It travels in the center aisle between back-to-back stalls and milk each cow one at a time. Moving from stall to stall, the robot allows the automation of the milking process while keeping the advantages of tie-stall barns. The robot repeats each step predictably and consistently, making it easy for cows to get used to the equipment and the process. This decreases the stress inherent to the milking and results in better milk production.
Read more about Milkomax’s Robomax
7. RDS Futureline MAX
RDS Futureline MAX by SAC, a full-line supplier in the modern milking machinery market, is a milking robot for the farmer to avoid having to attend daily milking routines, which include all physical work involved in milking.
The robot allows the cow to stand in an open box, ensuring it to be always in contact with the rest of her herd. The Futureline is perhaps the only machine capable of handling pre-milking, carrying out cleaning, stimulation, and the pre-milking itself.
The teat cup detects the teat, and the preparation cup is flexible to allow all movements to be followed. The unique laser and camera teat detection system are self-teaching: manual input of coordinates is no longer necessary.
Error-free cow recognition, using the MRS activity registration system, provides improved fertility records, delivering a reduced calving interval, and so improved milk yield. Sensors continuously monitor milk quality and (udder) health based on color and conductivity for each quarter.
Read more about RDS Futureline MAX
8. AktivPuls® Robot 2020
AktivPuls® Robot 2020 is a new milking robot which guarantees high operational reliability with a new generation laser and scan technology to ensure a quick and reliable connection of the teats. During the milking process, the robot doesn’t place any equipment underneath the cow, ensuring a lower risk of damage and stress for the cow.
“Plug and Milk” allows for a quick milking start with a central technology box. The robot offers you high performance for very low energy consumption. As one of its most essential features, the system is equipped with a rugged maintenance-free industrial-standard robot arm with very economical annual service costs. The stainless steel equipped milking boxes are sturdy and extremely livestock friendly. The upgradable robot has a milking capacity of up to 125 cows.
Read more about AktivPuls® Robot 2020
9. BouMatic MR-D2
BouMatic MR-D2 is a double box milking robot, equipped with two stalls side-by-side and a robot arm. Using an industry-leading, patented system, the double box robot can milk two cows simultaneously between the rear legs gently and quickly. This unique approach offers an ideal milking experience for the cow, safety for the owner, and protection for the system itself.
When entering the robot, the system recognizes the cow and decides if she needs to be milked or not. Using the latest 3D camera technology, the robot arm performs all operations from behind, moving between the rear legs to approach the udder. The robot cleans and preps each teat before attaching the milking cups. The time-of-flight technology of the camera determines the exact position of the individual teats.
The robot arm completes the milking process from an enclosed area. It starts with washing and pre-milking using the special teat preparation cup. Then, the milking cups are attached. When milking is completed, the arm finishes with the post-milking teat treatment. All steps are continuously monitored via sensors and measurement devices. Any deviation is immediately flagged and sent to a smartphone or tablet.
Read more about BouMatic MR-D2