24th November 2017 - A group of Waikato farmers headed to Cambridge yesterday to see firsthand how robotic milking systems are helping address current industry concerns around labour shortages and animal welfare.
The Fisher farm in Cambridge is now into its seventh season milking with robots after purchasing a DeLaval Voluntary Milking System (VMS), where each cow chooses when she is milked as well as how often in a day.
Owners John and Margaret Fisher opened the farm gates on Thursday to regional farmers to demonstrate the farm system and outcomes.
“We went with robotic milking to reduce the stress on both staff and the cows and to basically find an easier way to milk cows," explained John Fisher.
Farmers from around the region spent the day learning about the mechanics of a VMS, as well as the farm and data management systems that are just as important as the actual robots to ensuring the system delivers the benefits farmers are looking for.
“Back in Holland you see a lot of robot milking,” said visiting farmer Klaas Akkersma. “Most interesting is the calmness from the cows.”
Also of interest to him and others was the reduced labour requirement in a VMS, with the Fisher dairy operating as a one-person shed.
Visiting dairy farmer James Killalea said using robots to improve consistency in the shed appealed to him.
“With a worker in the morning they can be fine, during the day something might happen and he hasn’t got that right mindset, a cow can flick him in the head, and then the whole milking has this bad personality. Whereas with the robots, it’s the same thing all the time. You’re removing staff from the daily grind to do other things,” he explained.
Grant Vickers, DeLaval’s Robotic Milking expert said it’s a benefit that is becoming more applicable to Kiwi farmers.
“The potential for robotic farming to either reduce labour requirements, or change the skill set needed on a farm, is really relevant, especially in light of immigration changes we’re seeing talked about at the moment,“ he said.
Other DeLaval farms also opened gates this week to showcase both the DeLaval Rotary E100 and the DeLaval Parlour P2100 systems.