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Considering Automation for your Dairy Operation?

Date: 
Author: 
Tim Baumgartner
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Articles
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Dairy
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As the dairy environment continues to evolve, it presents both opportunities and challenges for today’s modern dairy farmers. We’re seeing more and more farmers considering robotics as a technology tool and part of a long term business success plan.

Determining the best direction for your business goes well beyond addressing productivity and efficiency; long range goals and plans for the future need to be discussed when choosing an Automated Milking System (AMS).

Two options for AMS exist, the first is referred to as the “pod system” where robotic units are incorporated in the cattle housing design. Each AMS has the ability to milk approximately 60-65 cows and are organized into pods based upon pen size and facility layout. The other system is adapting AMS technology into a rotary parlor in a conventional free stall milking system. Currently, most systems installed to-date are the pod systems.
In this article, we will focus on the pod concept when using AMS. The benefits of incorporating this AMS technology and system design to achieve higher levels of productivity, efficiency, and animal care while also
addressing labor demands going into the future.

At Compeer Financial we have seen a growing number of our clients implementing pod AMS as a logical part of the continued success of their dairy business. This is happening on farms ranging in size from 120 to 700 cows. Evaluating a new technology or system takes a comprehensive approach and in order to be successful, needs to have a well thought out plan. Using appropriate professionals and incorporating them as part of your planning and advisory team will ensure an effective transition for your business.

Key people to consider for your advisory team include: a manufacturer representative, local dealer, veterinarian, nutrition consultant, contractor, business consultant and your lender. The need for a well-rounded advisory team is due to a wide range of parameters when looking at an AMS and allows you the best opportunity to develop a roadmap for a successful business plan. Expectations of productivity, efficiency and costs need to be well researched and realistic when evaluating the potential results for each individual dairy. This will allow you to address the goals and expectations while crafting a new technology strategy. By taking the time for due diligence in planning your new set up, it will enhance the potential of success for the significant investment you are making into your dairy.

As previously mentioned, increasing productivity and efficiency using an AMS are both results of an improved environment for the cow. In a well-run AMS pod, the milking experience is maximized for your cows, by having a consistent milking protocol and experience every time the cow enters the robot resulting in greater yields. Furthermore, reducing cow movement and handling also appear to be additional advantages within an AMS pod. It also means less required labor when compared to conventional dairies. Facility design, stall design, bedding surface, and ventilation are critical factors in maximizing the cow environment, and are equally as important for success.

The investment in AMS is substantial, and relies heavily on technology demands, an increased level of expertise and a new management style for the dairyman to learn. AMS demands the same high level management intensity as a well-run conventional dairy. In the end, the primary function of the robot is to harvest the milk. Managing the cow, the system and making good decisions are vital to the overall success of the business.

Developing the right plan is critical and requires sound advice from a team of experts. While this can take time and may feel cumbersome in some stages, putting together the right advisory team committed to the success of your business will pay dividends to future results; including higher productivity, lower labor costs and generating a positive return for the high investment costs of an Automated Milking System.

Tim Baumgartner is a Dairy Lending Team Leader with Compeer Financial. For more insights from Tim and the rest of the Dairy Specialist Team, visit Compeer.com/Dairy.
 
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