Friday, 11 October 2013 14:41

Robotic milker uptake nearing tipping point

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LABOUR SHORTAGES and the need to boost productivity and sustainability may be tipping points for demand for robotic milking systems in the southern hemisphere, says DeLaval’s Oceania market development manager, Mark Smith. 


DeLaval recently sold its 10,000th Voluntary Milking System (VMS) to Glenirvine Farms of Fergus, Ontario, and will install it next year. The owners, two couples, have milked their 50-cow herd with a double-4 DeLaval herringbone parlour for 40 years.

DeLaval says automated milking is becoming the norm as dairy producers worldwide seek greater flexibility, reliable controls and better milking performance to make their operations more sustainable. 

However the take-up of robotic systems is slow in New Zealand and Australia. 

In New Zealand DeLaval has two farms with six VMS and a six-unit installation being built. Two farms are in the North Island and one in the South Island. In Australia it has 27 VMS on six farms and another planned for early 2014. Automatic milking rotary (AMR) technology was also recently introduced.

Smith says while the uptake of voluntary milking systems has been slower in Australasia than in Europe and the US, the level of enquiry is increasing.

“Farmers down under are now looking more closely at individual cow feeding and managing their input costs. Automatic milking provides a level of individual cow performance monitoring that has not been available in the past.”

DeLaval says it will keep pushing into Australia and New Zealand, seeing automatic milking as profitable for pasture-based farming and for intensive cow housing. “The three-way grazing model has been specifically adapted to suit grassland farming conditions and we will continue to develop sustainable business models.

“We have recently introduced the automatic milking rotary (AMR) into Australia and we see the VMS and AMR able to help farmers increase production within grazing systems.”

A turning point for New Zealand and Australia could come with labour shortage pressuring farmers. “On-farm production will increase as our dairy exports rise. The key now is to do that in a sustainable way where the environment, cow welfare and farm profitability are all considered.” 

Robotic milking systems can boost productivity per cow and per labour unit, DeLaval says. “As the global demand for milk expands, New Zealand and Australian dairy farmers play an important role in the development of the global capacity. [Their] profitability in a sustainable business environment will [promote] more automation in milking automation and animal housing.”

DeLaval first patented voluntary milking in 1982, and installed on-farm milking robots in Holland in the early 1990s. The first generation DeLaval VMS units were sold in 1998. VMS’ design allows for round-the-clock milking with record-setting milk yields and top milk quality, the company says. Other features include accurate quarter milking, an easy-to-use touch screen, and full system integration and upgradeability.  


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