March 21, 2017 - Fair Oaks Farms in Indiana, one of the biggest dairy operations in America, announced its intention to expand from conventional milking systems by signing an agreement for 12 DeLaval voluntary milking system VMS™.
The robots are for Prairie's Edge Dairy Farms, LLC, one of the nine partnerships that comprise Fair Oaks Ag tourism experience, which attracts more than 500,000 visitors annually.
This move further supports a recent shift in the business plans of large-scale milk producers exploring robotics as a viable solution for addressing issues like animal welfare, milk quality, production and labor.
The Fair Oaks Farms dairy attraction is represented by nine families milking 36,000 cows. Mike and Sue McCloskey, well-known visionaries of progressive and sustainable dairy farming, are one of these nine families. “These DeLaval robotic solutions are unbelievably productive and efficient,” said Mike McCloskey. “On top of that, the level of cow comfort that robotic milking brings is very attractive.”
“All of these things are coming together at the right time. It’s pretty exciting,” he continued. “The DeLaval team has gone above and beyond by assisting with the design process and implementation, helping our people – and eventually our cows – approach this new way of farming. The depth of knowledge DeLaval shows from a milk quality point-of-view and their understanding of milk’s physiology is fascinating.”
The decision to add on to Fair Oaks Farms’ rotary-based milking systems with an automated one is rooted in the Grass to Glass® ethos of fairlife™ milk, a nutrient-dense, lactose-free beverage the McCloskeys co-created with their Select Milk Producer partners. Fair Oaks Farms operates as a closed-loop system where they grow their own feed, never mix milk from other dairies, and process and bottle the milk at their dairy cooperative’s facilities. Twelve VMS units will help harvest enough milk to fill one tanker truck a day, helping to control milk quality and traceability.
“We are very pleased to be a part of Fair Oaks Farms’ journey in going robotic. At DeLaval we are committed to helping our customers remain progressive and future-oriented, and we feel that robotic milking matched with outstanding cow comfort and excellent milk quality are the prerequisites for this,” said Fernando Cuccoli, DeLaval Vice President, Market Area North America.
Start-up of Fair Oaks Farms’ new robotic milking facility is planned for December 2017 and will serve 780 cows.
DeLaval VMS (voluntary milking system) allows cows to be milked automatically, whenever they like, in a calm, quiet and stress-free environment.
It identifies the cow as it enters the system and feed is dispensed before the teats are cleaned and prepared, and milking begins. Dual lasers on the robotic arm enable quick, precise teat detection.
When milking is complete, both the animal’s teats and the system itself are cleaned, ensuring the highest standards of hygiene are maintained at all times.
The world’s largest automated milking operation with 64 DeLaval VMS came on-line at the end of last year in Chile, and another large robotic facility in Michigan with 24 DeLaval VMS will start milking later this year.