UCCE advisor Bruno guides, learns from dairies switching to milking robots – Food Blog


Automatic milking systems progressively utilized in California in the middle of labor obstacles

When third-generation dairy farmer Shonda Reid initially saw a milking robotic at a farm reveal 13 years back, she instantly acknowledged that the innovation represented the future. Her daddy, nevertheless, took a bit more persuading.

” I got back and revealed him and stated, ‘This is what we require to do.’ And he believed I was joking!” stated Reid, dairy and farm supervisor for Fred Rau Dairy, which has a herd of 1,400 milk cows in Fresno County.

Years later on, after the household had actually gone to numerous dairies utilizing automated milking systems (AMS) throughout the U.S., they installed their very first 6 robotics in November 2021. By fall 2022, they had 24 robotics, equally divided in between 2 freshly constructed “complimentary stall” barns where the cows can easily go to the milking devices.

As Fred Rau Dairy was among the very first in California to execute AMS at such a scale, Reid and her group have actually contributed in growing useful understanding on these systems. She likewise has actually been a valued partner to Daniela Bruno, University of California Cooperative Extension dairy consultant for Fresno, Madera and Kings counties.

” Automatic milking robotics are not a brand-new innovation, however it’s brand-new to California,” stated Bruno, keeping in mind that the milking robotics were initially utilized on little, family-run farms in Europe, where the innovation approved relative more time for rest and other pursuits.

To much better comprehend the expediency of milking robotics for big dairies in California, Bruno– together with previous UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine teacher Fernanda Ferreira, University of Minnesota scientist Marcia Endres and other partners– started a task in 2020 to study the threats and chances of automated systems.

” The details is very helpful for California manufacturers to make educated choices about executing AMS on their centers,” stated Denise Mullinax, executive director of the California Dairy Research Foundation, which supported the effort through a competitive grant. “Cow care, labor requirements and success are crucial problems for manufacturers, and CDRF was pleased to support this task which helps manufacturers in comprehending how AMS might affect those locations on their center.”

Dairy farmer: ‘We required to make some modifications’

The task produced a paper analyzing existing research on automatic systems, which have actually been more extensively utilized in the Midwest, where there are more small, family-run dairies. In 2020, there were just 14 “box robotics” in California, according to Bruno. Now there have to do with 200 throughout California– and both Bruno and Reid pointed out labor obstacles as the main factor for the increased usage of automated systems.

” California experiences labor quality and amount problems,” Bruno stated. “By bringing robotics to California, you can lessen those issues.”

Higher expenses of employing and maintaining staff members, driven in part by brand-new labor laws, are one element. And after that there’s the dependability and schedule of labor, as less individuals want to do the physically requiring work of traditional milking.

” People simply do not wish to milk in a flat barn [a conventional setup where the employee works at the same level as the cow]– there’s a great deal of kneeling, crouching, that kind of thing– it’s quite hard on the body,” Reid discussed.

Faced with labor lacks and installing regulative problems, Reid stated Fred Rau Dairy needed to make the leap to automated systems to keep the 80-year-old dairy operation running.

” We required to make some modifications, or we’re heading out of the dairy company,” she stated.

In a study carried out by Bruno and her associates of big dairies utilizing AMS throughout the U.S., a bulk of the 29 participants reported decreases in labor expenses– however study outcomes did not use a conclusive image on whether AMS enhanced fundamental success.

Calmer, much healthier cows

Nevertheless, the majority of the study participants stated they were normally delighted with their shift to automated systems.

” It’s absolutely fulfilled our expectations, and cow health has actually gotten far better, too,” Reid stated.

In a common traditional system where cows are outdoors in “open confine” pens, dairy staff members need to encourage the cows into the milking parlor. Within a “complimentary stall” barn where the cows can willingly go to the milking robotics when they desire, as frequently as they desire, the animals are much less stressed out.

” When you consider cow handling, if you have robotics, you do not have anyone yelling and pressing at them to stroll to the parlor,” Bruno discussed. “You have less cow-people interaction so they are more calm; there is less tension.”

In the study of big dairies utilizing milking robotics, more than 90% of the participants stated their cows were calmer. Reid likewise kept in mind that many individuals have actually seen how calm their cows remain in the complimentary stall barns.

” They’re not skittish, you can stroll in and they do not run,” Reid stated. “They’ll simply view you or they’ll even show up and begin licking on your coat or t-shirt.”

Bruno likewise stated that a lot of the big dairies reported less cases of mastitis and other illness, less lameness, and higher milk production. She included it’s difficult to understand whether the advantages can be associated to the robotics and their real-time tracking innovation– or to modifications in the physical environment (cows conserve energy in the complimentary stall barn setup, versus the open-corral system that needs strolling to the milking parlor).

Dairy manufacturers look for counsel on prospective shift

Less bovine travel from outdoors to within was a benefit for Fred Rau Dairy throughout in 2015’s abnormally damp winter season.

” Even if it’s simply a number of weeks of rain, that mud and manure and whatever– you do what you can, however oh my gosh– it’s a mess,” stated Reid, keeping in mind that much easier center upkeep throughout severe weather condition was another advantage of changing to automated systems within complimentary stall barns.

Reid shared a lot of her experiences with guests of an AMS Field Day in October 2022, organized by Bruno, Ferreira and their partners. About 60 farmers, scientists, market agents and specialists checked out Fred Rau Dairy and Jones Dairy in Merced County.

If a dairy manufacturer is thinking about executing automated systems, Reid advises that they look into all their choices, check out dairies that utilize the systems, and check who in their location would be supplying service and technical assistance.

And there are important labor force factors to consider, as dairy employees need to discover a completely brand-new set of procedures and abilities. Rather of investing their time bring the cows, prepping them and milking them in the parlor, employees may require to collect and analyze information from the robotics. “Cow individuals,” as Reid puts it, need to end up being computer system individuals.

” You have a group of individuals who have actually been with you for a while, and you hope that they can shift to the brand-new innovation of what you’re doing,” Reid stated.

During this technological shift, and on the myriad other obstacles that dairy operators deal with, Reid stated she is grateful for Bruno’s know-how and responsiveness.

” If there’s something that I require, she’s been actually great about attempting to assist– or putting me in contact with the ideal individuals,” she discussed. “I’ve delighted in dealing with her.”

The AMS task group likewise consists of UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine teacher Fabio Lima, postdoctoral scientist Thaisa Marques and previous postdoctoral scientist Camila Lage.

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