As a lover of all things Robotic, and an Ex: "Professional Tit Puller(Dairy Farmer)". I found this announcement brought back all those sentimental memories of getting up at 5:00 am to milk and again at 6:00pm. And through all weathers, 7 days a week, 12 months of the year!
IN A quiet valley in the heart of northern Tasmania a revolution is taking shape. From the outside the Dornauf farm in the Quamby valley just outside of Deloraine looks much like any other. But the dairy and its yards do not look like any other.
The dairy is a familiar rotary style but where people would normally stand are five robotic arms with odd red laser lights reflecting off the stainless steel. The yards look like some kind of complicated maze – with cow races and yards punctuated by one-way gates.
This is no ordinary farm: this is the world's first commercial installation of the robotic rotary or Automatic Milking Rotary (AMR).
The AMR is Australia's own technology, developed by the FutureDairy project at Camden, NSW, a collaboration between DeLaval, Dairy Australia, NSW Department of Primary Industries and the University of Sydney.
The AMR is based on a 24-unit internal, herringbone rotary, which allows the robots to approach the cow from the side in front of the back legs.
A cow moves onto the platform and is rotated into the first position, where the first Teat Preparation Module (TPM) robot prepares the two right teats, with a rinse, dry and stimulation. It is then rotated into the second position, where the second TPM robot prepares the two left teats.
The cow then moves into the third position where the first Automatic Cup Attachment (ACA) robot attaches cups to the two back teats. It then moves into the fourth position where the second ACA robot attaches cups to the two front teats.
Cameras sit above the cows in all four positions to monitor the movement of the cows and relay that information to the robots so that they can find the teats faster. The robots use laser technology that transmits the distinctive red light to locate the teats and either clean them or attach the cups.
DeLaval's AMR systems specialist Ron Mulder, who was one of the DeLaval team that has worked closely with the Dornaufs, said the system did quarter-milking with four separate milk lines that each monitored blood, conductivity and production. This produced more reliable data than a composite sample produced when there was only one milk line.
Each cup is automatically removed as the quarter finishes milking.
The final robot operates in the last position on the platform. This Teat Spray Module (TSM) robot sprays teats accurately to ensure the best possible coverage with the most efficient use of teat spray.
This robot operates with different technology: an optical or time-of-flight camera is used instead of a laser to locate the teats.
The cow then exits the platform and the Cup Flush Module rinses out each cup to ensure no cross contamination between cows.
The design of the dairy yards plays a key role in the AMR's operation.
The yards comprise a series of smaller yards, separated by Smart Selection Gates (SSGs) – automatic gates that can draft cows in two or three different directions. It looks like a complex maze but the cows move around the system seamlessly.
The whole system works around automatic identification collars or transponders that each cow wears. Each time a cow approaches an SSG, it reads the transponder and directs the cow in the direction set in the DELPRO herd management program.
This is used in myriad ways:
to allow a cow to move onto the platform for milking; for example, cows that are part of the sick herd or that have not had sufficient time since the last milking will be drafted out of the yards;
to direct a cow that had kicked off a cup in milking or where the robot did not attach a milking cup properly back onto the dairy to be milked again;
to direct cows to the appropriate part of the farm; for example where the next pasture is available or if it is a member of the sick herd into a different section of farm;
to auto draft animals for treatments or artificial insemination; or
to direct cows to the out-of-parlour feeders or the feedpad.
The farmer has complete control – setting parameters in the computer system that controls the dairy and yards.