Design Your Barn to be Greater Than the Sum of its Parts

Central to all robotic dairy designs are the milking robots themselves; but how do they “fit” with other technologies inside the barn?

When designing a robotic milking facility for any number of robots, my team and I take into consideration things such as cow flow; milk handling; young stock and transition cow handling; flexibility of design; expandability; and, of course, economy. We are also fortunate to be able to incorporate into our designs many productivity-enhancing DeLaval technologies to create a plan that truly revolves around you! Here are some design considerations for a few of those solutions:

DeLaval Herd Navigator

DeLaval VMS™ milking system V300™ equipped with Herd Navigator™ is the only robot that can automatically preg-check cows.  In order to do that we need to take into account the various components. For example, each Herd Navigator system can serve six robots. Once we know how many cows will be milked and how many robots will be on the farm, both now and in the future, then we can locate the robots to take advantage of that.

In addition, there are maximum distances for transporting the milk samples we need to observe. The Sampler, located in the robot, cannot be more than 100 feet from the Sample Intake Unit (SIU). The SIU cannot be more than 30 feet from the Analysis Instrument (AI). The AI is the “laboratory” that automatically analyzes the milk sample.

So, it really is a juggling act when taking into consideration how to place the robots for most effective operation of Herd Navigator while balancing a myriad of other factors driving placement.

DeLaval OptiDuo

Pivotal to the success of any VMS farmer is the availability of fresh, high quality forages for their cows. The new DeLaval OptiDuo™ – launching this spring – pushes up feed and remixes it, freshening forages and making them available. This encourages excellent dry matter intake and cow movement.  Remember, cows must go to the robot to be milked so more movement leads to more robot visits. 

From a facility design standpoint, the recharge station and “track” the OptiDuo robot drives along must be located correctly and within specifications. With large herds we must also ensure the length of feed bunks fall within guidelines so the OptiDuos are able to push feed often enough so that it is always available. In most cases, OptiDuo can push as many as ten times a day.

DeLaval Smart Selection Gates

Typically, every robot facility will have at least one Smart Selection Gate. In free flow cow traffic they will be located immediately after the robot so cows that need attention can be sorted and waiting in a separate pen. In guided cow traffic, there will be one located between the beds and feed bunk so that cows that are due to be milked can be sent directly to the robot. In either case, they are automatic and give control to the farmer in addition to helping reduce labor input.

After years of experience – and some trial and error – my team and I know what works and what does not regarding the location of these gates, which if improperly planned for, can lead to cow movement issues.  For example, it is wise to give cows good clearance for gate entry and exit and to locate the gates so they can easily learn and become familiar with passing through.

The Command Center

No, we don’t sell these, but every automated dairy needs one – and as dairy farming technology increasingly becomes more integrated and pronounced, the design and location of a central hub where you can monitor and manage everything with DeLaval DelPro™ is rather important.  

First, make this a place that is comfortable so you want to be there. There will also be a computer here so make sure it is easy to keep clean. One of the favorite features of Command Centers is an elevated floor with windows looking into the freestall barn so the entire herd can be monitored.

With DeLaval robotic solutions the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts. But how can that be?  The design of the facility that brings all of these solutions together is the multiplier that makes this possible. Our Facility Planning & Design team has designed thousands of VMS barns and is always ready to work with you. Please do not hesitate to contact one of us and we will be happy to go in depth on topics discussed in this article and even produce your dream barn design!

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