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Despite the high cost, robotic milking machines are becoming more and more popular because the dairy technology of the remaining 6,700 dairy farms in Wisconsin is more inclined to save labor and improve the health of the herd.
Robotic technology seems to have the answer, either by itself or by combining sensors, especially in guiding eating and health.
Two dairy farms in Wisconsin are pushing the window of technology with the latest version of robotic milking machines.
Knigge Farms LLC, located in Omro, Winnebago County, was the first company in the United States to launch a robotic milking machine. Knigges-Pete, wife Theo, their son Charlie and their grandson Jacob-are now performing a second update to a pair of devices they first installed 21 years ago. Starting with 90 cows, Knigges has now increased to 130, and has increased the milk production per cow from 21,000 to 22,000 pounds to 26,000 pounds per cow.
In contrast, Miltrim Farms Inc. of Athens, Marathon County, is showing the way for large dairy farms. Farmer Tom Mueller and his nephew David Trimner serve as general manager of the farm. They use robots to milk 1,800 cows out of 3,100. They installed 18 units in 2019 and added 12 more this year. The remaining 1,300 cows are milked in a traditional double 24 herringbone milking parlor.
Trimner said that the average cows milked by robots weigh 95 to 96 pounds a day, while their sisters milking in the living room weigh 88 to 90 pounds. He added that cows milked by robots "milk 3 times a day" on average.
Both families are satisfied with the robot. Pete Knigge offers a half-hour tour, while Miltrim Farms has an extensive network presence and YouTube videos.
"I was definitely sold," König said. "When you acquire robotics, you prepay for labor."
Trimner said he was “very satisfied with the results” and pointed out that the farm’s 30 robotic milkers can easily handle 1,800 cows.
Miltrim Farms also uses technology to monitor cell counts and cow health, automatically push feed and recycle sand as litter.
Knigge has an automatic calf feeder and says that every update is much better.
Both dairy farms stated that it takes a week for heifers to learn the milking system, but Trimner added that most "do not really fully adapt until about three weeks later."
Heather White, director of the Dairy Innovation Center at the University of Wisconsin, believes that the two keys to technological advancement in dairy farming are:
The center released its second annual report at the end of October, outlining more than 100 projects funded on three campuses of the University of Washington, including agricultural projects (Madison, Prattville, and River Falls) and four priority areas, 220 Ten thousand US dollars for equipment to build research capacity, a total of 7.8 million US dollars allocated to the new dairy program in fiscal 2021, 12 new teachers hired, and three campus collaboration and collaborative programs.
One of the major projects was the installation of robotic milking machines on the 200-head dairy farm at Pioneer Farm in UW-Platteville last summer. It is the only UW school that operates a robotic milking machine. In addition to milking cows, sensors connected to the milking machine also collect a wide range of information, including health data (such as somatic cell count), advanced lactation information (such as milk composition and yield), and cow behavior.
Dr. Ryan Pralle (pictured), a nutritionist at the Prattville School of Agriculture at the University of Wisconsin, said: "My vision for an automated milking system [AMS] (such as the Lely A5 we own at Pioneer Farm) is to maximize its performance. The potential of nutrition and data is based on dairy cow management tools. As a nutritionist, I am most interested in the unique role of AMS as a feeding system. For AMS, every time a cow visits, she will be provided with a certain amount of feed, usually pellet feed This provides the farmer with an opportunity to personalize nutrition according to the cow’s productivity, lactation stage or physiological state to best meet her needs or optimize farm goals."
Using AMS to evaluate and develop data-based management tools and strategies is another interest of Pralle's research program.
"AMS provides a large number of data point collection opportunities, including nipple-level milking data, milk composition and quality data, and body weight," Pralle said. "All of these can be used to monitor or predict the performance of dairy cows, or be integrated into decision support tools and management decisions."
Brian Holmes (pictured) of the Department of Biosystems Engineering at the University of Wisconsin pointed out in a recent interview: "There are sensors that can determine animal activity. They are now actually using this information to determine when cows should be raised. They also use the perceived chewing frequency and noise information to determine whether the cow is eating and ruminating normally, to determine whether the cow is healthy enough because it is related to her digestive system."
He said that robot technology can judge how many times a cow is milked a day, "and whether there is any abnormality in the milk.... If her milk production drops sharply for some reason, they will notify the producer that an abnormal situation has occurred here, and they You should see if the cow is sick or if the cow is not eating properly."
The full center report is on its website. White pointed out in it: "Research is not so much a sprint as a marathon. When a challenge is found, research questions will be asked, and the results will appear in years instead of days or weeks. The center's strategy is to Strike a balance between long-term vision and short-term victory."
White pointed out that from her point of view, “it’s not only one technology that must be possessed, because the needs, advantages, and limitations of farms vary greatly. For me, the technology that the farm should consider can eliminate or reduce the bottleneck of the farm. Technology. There are many great technologies available, from robotic milking systems to ruminating collars, and there is an opportunity to find a technology that helps solve [a] the biggest limitation of the farm."
With the increasing popularity of robotic milking machines, the state’s production per cow continues to rise; as of September, it was up 3.6% from the previous year.
Buchholz lives in Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin.
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