Automatic milking or Robotic milking advantages and disadvantages

The automatic milking is the milking of dairy animals especially of dairy cattle , without the human labour , The automatic milking systems (AMS) are also called the voluntary milking systems (VMS) , And they were developed in the late 20th century .

The core of these systems that allows the complete automation of the milking process is the type of the agricultural robot , The automated milking is also called robotic milking , The popular systems rely on the use of the computers and the special herd management software .

The robots are the automatic or voluntary milking systems , they mainly in response to rising the labour costs on the farms in many dairy producing countries , They are used to replace the manual labour demands incurred through the fixed milking times so the farmer’s time was free to spend elsewhere .

The robotic milking allows the cow to set her milking schedule by following the initial training period , The cows are milked with limited human interaction , Each cow on the robotic milking dairy is fitted with the electronic tag that allows the robot to identify her .

Automation in milking

The cow and the milking machine is partial automation compared to hand milking , The rotary milking parlor offers higher efficiency compared to the stationary milking parlors but still requiring manual labour with milking machines .

Robotic milking

Robotic milking

The milking process is the collection of tasks that devoted to extracting the milk from the animal ( rather than the broader field of the dairy animal husbandry ) , And maintaining the milk yield during the lactation period (approximately 300 days) requires the consistent milking intervals .

The milking process may be broken down into several sub-tasks such as collecting the animals before milking , routing the animals into the parlour , inspection and cleaning of the teats , attachment of milking equipment to the teats , and massaging back of the udder to relieve any held back milk , the extraction of milk , removal of the milking equipment , routing of the animals out of the parlour .

Modern automatic milking systems offers the milk temperature , the milk conductivity , the milk color including infrared scan , change in the milking speed , change in the milking time or the milk let down by quarter , the cow’s weight , the cow’s activity ( movements ) , the time spent ruminating , etc .

Advantages of robotic milkers

The robotic milking systems can free up labor , they do not need to be managed ,  They are becoming more common worldwide , They improve the quality of the life due to the reduced labour demands and greater time flexibility , They can cut four to five hours of the labor a day .

The robotic milkers can do more than just milk the cows , They can collect the valuable data and information like the individual cow milk production , milk’s electrical conductivity ( the indicator of its quality ) , the cow activity, and the cow rumination data .

The milk can have the same somatic cell count (SCC) or the lower one , compared to the people doing milking , the farm can achieve the same or better herd health and reproduction , Less water and cleaning chemicals tend to be used with the robotic milkers , compared to the parlors but the electricity usage might run higher .

The automatic milking systems are working well in the free-stall and the bedded pack barns , and for the grazing operations ,  Higher-forage rations entice the cows to enter the AMS , most farmers feed the flavor-enhanced pellets, The pellets encourage the cows to visit the milkers , A second preferred choice to feed at the robots is roasted soybeans .

AMS requires the complete automation of the milking process , The milking unit comprises the milking machine , the teat position sensor (usually the laser) , The robotic arm for the automatic teat-cup application and removal and the gate system for controlling the cow traffic .

The automatic milking decreases the contact between the farmer and the herd , It removes the farmer from such close contact with the animal , It offers increased milking frequency  , Milking frequency may increase to three times per day , This may result in less stress on the udder and increased comfort for the cow .

Disadvantages of robotic milkers

The cow movement through the robotic milkers can be slowed by the activities such as the manure scraping , the herd health , and the hoof trimming , Cow throughput can be slowed if the robot has problems attaching the unit because  the cow has dark teats , long hair on her udder , a tilted udder , or teats that touch each other .

There’s the fact that some cows may not want to have anything to do with the robots at first , training the cows to AMS can take long time and would not be classified as a pleasant experience.

While the robots free the people from having to milk most cows , there is a trade off , You must be on call 24 hours a day , seven days a week , in case there’s a problem , And the big problem is the cost of getting the farm set up with the robotic milkers

The dairy farmers learn how to handle minor repairs , Some parts are expensive to replace if their warranties have expired , These include the lasers that locate the cows’ teats , and the hydraulic arms which move in an out from underneath cows .

The final manual labour tasks remaining in the milking process were cleaning and inspection of the teats and attachment of the milking equipment ( milking cups ) to the teats , It is a complex task and it requires the accurate detection , The tasks have been automated successfully in the voluntary milking system (VMS) , or the automatic milking system (AMS) .

Robotic milking has higher initial cost , Whether it is economically beneficial to invest in an AMS instead of the conventional milking parlor depends on the constructions costs , The investments in the milking system and costs of labour .

The AMS is expensive for smaller scale farms , and large dairies can operate more cheaply with the milking parlor , Robotic milking has increased electricity costs to operate the robots but this can be more than the outweighed by the reduced labour input .

Robotic milking has increased complexity , While complexity of equipment is the necessary part of technological advancement , the increased complexity of the AMS milking unit over the conventional systems increases the reliance on the manufacturer maintenance services and possibly increasing the operating costs .

The system requires the high quality of management as all milking cows have to visit the AMS voluntarily , AMS works best in zero-grazing systems , In pasture systems , the cows graze in the fields and they are required to walk to the milking parlour , The cows do not attend the milking unit if the distance to walk is too great .

In the conventional milking , the cows are observed before the milking equipment is attached , and the ill or injured cows can be earmarked for attention , The automatic milking removes the farmer from such close contact with the animal .

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