The smell, the feeling, the NEW is always something we love to have or do, however it is not always possible or convenient.
While there are opportunities in life to go with a brand new car, new house, new farm or new equipment, there are also times where the most cost-efficient alternative or the best financial opportunity overwrites the NEW wishes. Remember dairying is not about speed, it is about endurance, and making solid, mindful, business-driven decisions is the key to that. While in some cases, NEW might be the only right answer, in other cases existing facilities may accommodate robots in a great way. More often than not, it can be an attractive option.
When adding robots to any kind of facility, the key is always to think of the cow first. It is normal to find some limitations between the “ideal” and the “real,” and this is where we need to find balance and put focus. Always remember that if we need to sacrifice something it cannot be cow comfort and health. Also, keep in mind that management can compensate for some of the limitations, but be realistic about what you sacrifice – plan your work and work your plan.
The most common cow traffic for retrofitted facilities is free flow as it allows a lot of flexibility and simplicity. However, hybrid barns – free flow with pre-selection and one-way gates or modified guided (very common on four-row head-to-head barns) – have gained a lot of popularity in the last five years. They combine the best of both worlds, the flexibility of the free flow with the efficiency of the pre-selection-guided. The good news is that both work. It’s up to you to choose what’s right for you and what can best accommodate your current set up.
Today in North America, several robotic projects are built on existing facilities. At least 50 percent of the robotic projects installed this year in the U.S. have been retrofits, and 41 percent for Canada. I bet you wouldn’t guess there is such a high percentage, but there is, because good dairy farmers always realize that it doesn’t need to be always new, it just needs to be good.
Enjoy your reading and make sure to pay close attention to the farm of the month. Without a doubt, Hillcrest Farms in Georgia will be one of the most exciting robotic retrofits ever. The Rodgers will be starting up soon with our game changer, the new DeLaval VMS™ milking system V300!