No-hands milking robots
Labor-intensive dairy farms are early adopters of robot technology. The Dutch company, Lely (lely.com), is on the fourth generation of its Astronaut milker. Midwest sales manager Rick Rugg says one robot can handle about 60 cows. The cows determine their own milking schedule. The robot reads the tag, cleans and preps the teats, attaches teat cups, records milk flow and volume, and detaches when done milking.
For smaller dairies, the robots don’t necessarily save manpower, says Rugg. “It’s about the freedom and flexibility of lifestyle,” he says. “For dairies over 240 cows, it’s more about labor savings.”
Astronauts aren’t cheap. They cost $200,000, give or take $20,000 in options. Rugg says they’re engineered to last 20 years. “In Europe, it’s estimated that 65% of new dairies install robots. Some expect that will happen here, too.”
Lely has other barn robots. In the large picture below, the Discovery barn cleaner is shown in the lower right corner. On the left is the Vector feeding system that continually makes fresh rations. The Astronaut milking robot is shown in the inset.