Lely celebrated its 60th anniversary by adding a product to its range of robotic dairy equipment – the Juno automatic feed pusher.

With the company concentrating its efforts on providing automated solutions to feed tasks, the spaceship-shaped Juno is the first in a series of products aimed at this market.

Lely says the €12,000 machine offers four benefits – it saves labour, improves animal welfare, increases dry matter intakes and produces less feed waste.

“Pushing up for a 120-cow herd takes about half an hour a day, which adds up to nearly 200 hours or 22 days a year,” says Court van Lenteren, the company’s marketing manager.

“And because the Juno pushes fresh food up to the barrier as many as eight times a day, lower-ranking cows have access to high-quality rather than sub-standard feed.

“With continuous access to feed, dry matter intake increases by about 3.6%, which improves milk yield.”

Wastage is also reduced significantly, claims Lely.

The Juno is based on same system as Lely’s Discovery robotic slurry scraper, pushing the feed to the barrier as often as programmed, without disturbing the cows.

Using the hand-held E-link controller, farmers can program up to 16 routes, starting some distance away and gradually approaching the barrier. It can start a new route every 30 minutes.

After each run, the Juno is returned to a charging station at a convenient point in the feed passage to re-energise the battery.

Driven by two electrically-powered wheels and supported by a third, an ultrasound sensor is programmed so that the feed pusher follows the feed barrier at a predetermined distance. The two electric motors powering the machine require less than 500kW a year to run and each motor has a life expectancy of 30,000 hours, or 30 years.

The main frame of the machine contains a 500kg concrete block, giving it enough weight to push feed piles up to 75cm (2.5ft) high and as wide as 2m (6.6m) the distance pre-set by farmers.

A rotating cone at the base of the Juno pushes forage towards the feed barrier while the machine itself continues in a straight line. As the cone rotates against the face of the material, feed is lifted rather than pushed.

An inductive device sensor, which detects metal without touching it and is the same sort of sensor used in metal detectors and traffic lights, allows the Juno to follow routes, while a metal strip positioned on the floor near the charging station marks the end of the course. When it moves between barns, another strip guides the machine to the start of the next feed passage and a collision detector stops the machine if it meets any obstructions.

Also shown at the launch were prototype Juno variants that will distribute vitamins and minerals as the machine pushes the ration up. These models are due to go on sale at the end of 2009.

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