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The future of robotic milking – stationary and rotating

PD Editor Walt Cooley Published on 19 May 2011

After the introduction and live demonstration of DeLaval's newest robotic milking parlor in Gamleby, Sweden, there were many questions about the possibilities for future adaptions of the technology.

DeLaval's Jonas Hallman, director of automatic milking, fielded most of these questions. He's been working with the company's robotics division for the past three years and has seen how far the technology has already come.

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In the video below Hallman discusses the technology's potential in the future.

While the arrival of an robotic milking parlor in the U.S. may be a ways off, DeLaval's North American Marketing Manager Mark Futcher discusses what the advent of a robotic milking parlor will eventually mean for large-herd U.S. and Canadian dairy producers.

Below are some of the frequently asked questions about where DeLaval is headed with its automatic milking rotary (AMR) parlor in the future.

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Q. How much will it cost?
Unknown.

"The price will be competitive."
—Andrew Turner, DeLaval Vice President of Capital Goods

Q. When will it be available in U.S.?
Commercial installations of the new rotary will begin in late 2011 and into 2012 first in Australia, Sweden and then in Europe. Turner indicated the new rotary would be available worldwide by 2014.

"It's not really a question of necessarily where the platform is relevant. It is about where we have the technical skills to support it from a service perspective."
—Turner

Q. How often will the robotic arms need to be replaced?
"We won't be replacing complete robots. That's not needed. As with any automatic milking system you need to ensure you do service on it. It's a total-care ownership product."
—Hallman

"What we have on our VMS model is the ability to upgrade. That intent would be the same with AMR. So, for example, a lot of customers have upgraded from pneumatic to hydraulic robot arms since their first installation more than 10 years ago."
—Turner

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Q. Will an on-platform feeding system will be available?
"Right now we are not offering that. But it is something we are looking into going forward."
—Hallman

Q. Will voluntary cow traffic be available for AMR?
"We think so. The future will tell us. The proof needs to be there. In the VMS, we have seen voluntary cow traffic develop. We are quite sure we will see that develop for AMR."
—Hallman

Q. Will DeLaval's herd management software HerdNavigator be available on the AMR system?
Probably within the next five years.

"Our focus is on parlors and VMS developments right now."
—Turner

Q. What are some of the less obvious benefits of the parlor?
When milking manually, the milkers say they enjoy being able to apply cups individually by teat quarter.

"We have gained some benefits during manual milking. But that's not what we're talking about. We're not launching a new conventional system, we're launching a new automatic system."
—Hallman

Q. Could you build a parlor that allows robots to milk from the outside of the rotary instead of the inside?
No answer.

"Companies are always looking into everything. We're not going to share something we are doing until we are ready to show something working."
—Hallman

Hallman did say that in his opinion which side the cow is milked from isn't that important.

"I know on the conventional parlor side of our business there are a lot of feelings about whether inside or outside is right," Hallman says. "It doesn't matter. This is an automatic milking system. As long as you have the cow presenting itself and you're aiming for the udder, it doesn't matter how you place the robots. However, I understand the perception coming from the U.S. or Europe of milking from inside or outside."

Q. Will an automatic milking parlor larger than 24-stalls be available in the future?
Hallman would not speculate if a larger parlor size would be available in the future. DeLaval has reaffirmed its commercial launch of the new rotary will be in just the 24-stall size. PD

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