Dairy Farm RobotsMilking cows in a stanchion barn took its toll on the elder Laufenberg. As the years passed and the farm grew, labor became more expensive, unreliable, and hard to find. Finally his son and grandson convinced him it was time for a change. The family made a huge leap and employed four full-time robots in a new barn they built to milk their 250 cows. That was six years ago.

These robotic milkers represented a major paradigm shift at the Laufenberg farm. Once the cows were trained and adopted the new milking routine, the advantages proved to be significant: Robots work around the clock, require no overtime pay, never take vacations, and rarely “call in sick” (but when they do, a mechanic is called and the robot is immediately back on task, milking cows!). Herd health has gone up along with milk production, yet more importantly, stress levels have gone down.

Cows, like any animal, can be temperamental. The robots treat each cow the same, yet adjust at each milking to each cow’s unique udder configuration, so that the teats are cleaned and dried before the individual teat cups are attached. Milk from each quarter is monitored for quality and will be diverted if not within the acceptable range.

AEM staff had the opportunity to visit the Laufenberg’s farm, as part of the Badger NAMA Study Tour featuring Dairy Farm Robotics in Middleton, Wisconsin on June 14. Guest speakers from DeLaval talked about the logistics and financial considerations of using this technology.

This tour was of particular interest to the AEM Statistics staff, since the launch of the new statistics program for robotic milking units in January of this year. Monthly shipments of this equipment at the county level in the United States and at the Census sub-division level in Canada are reported to AEM. Four major manufacturers of robotic milking equipment participate in the AEM Statistics Program, with a fifth to join later this year.

For more information, contact Rex Sprietsma, director, statistics and market information, AEM (rsprietsma@aem.org, tel: 414-298-4147) or Sarah Miller, Statistics Coordinator, AEM (smiller@aem.org, tel: 414-298-4133)