Today, Lely calculates that more than a million cows around the world are milked unassisted by Astronaut robots and many more are similarly milked by systems from DeLaval, Fullwood, GEA and SAC of Denmark.
These manufacturers anticipate that by 2025, half of all dairy cows in north-west Europe will be milked by robotic systems, with robot arms for rotaries and conventional parlours adding to the population of today’s box-type designs.
Feeding routines are also undergoing the robotic revolution. Lely’s Vector and the Triomatic products from Trioliet both mix and dispense grub without the need for a tractor and man on the front.
Feed ingredients are held in bunkers, which can be replenished in three weeks – the sum total of the man hours involved. A computer system is programmed to dispense ingredients for different feed mixes, leaving the autonomous diet mixer-feeder to quietly get on with delivering the ration.
Farms content with a simpler approach without the major investment needed in the bunker infrastructure can opt for Schuitemaker’s autonomous self-loading diet feeder.
The Innovado collects maize silage from an outdoor clamp using a ‘shaving’ rotor and can take on board minerals and other ingredients from overhead hoppers. It then follows pre-defined routes between the clamp and cattle sheds using a combination of RTK GPS and buried transponders.