Many may think that milking and feeding cows with a click of a button is science-fiction. But more and more dairy farmers overseas have begun incorporating this totally automated technology in their operations.
An example is Weldon Plett, who, with his family, runs Sunny Glades Farm near Blumenort, Manitoba, in Canada. He made the decision to mechanise while rebuilding his barn after a devastating fire two years ago and the Pletts now milk and feed their herd of 260 cows at the click of a button.
This technology is particularly appreciated in this area, where the temperature regularly reaches -36°C. The new facility has four Lely A4 Astronaut robotic milking systems and a Lely Vector automatic feeding system.
Mixer and feed pusher
The Vector is a mixer and feed pusher. It’s run by a computer and uses a laser to monitor the feed levels in the feed bunk. When not monitoring feed levels or dispensing feed, it is recharged in the feed room. The feeder holds approximately 500kg of feed, and the system includes silos, feed bins and conveyor belts.
The Lely Vector robot, which operates independently, can feed cows 24 hours a day. “The Lely drives around the feed bunks,” explains Weldon’s son Jeremy, who manages the farm. “It will push up the feed and scan the bunk to see how much feed is there at the time. Then it will go back to its feed kitchen, where we store a pile of feed in silage blocks, and load itself with the appropriate ration.”
Once it has loaded itself, the robot mixes the ration, drives it back out to the feed fence and delivers the feed to the cows there. “So you’re always getting fresh feed to the cows at the right time,” Jeremy explains.
Optimal feeding that cuts costs
Another dairyman who appreciates the Lely system is Galen Nolt of Peach Bottom Farm in Pennsylvania in the US. He particularly likes the fact that the machine feeds the cows according to their needs and eliminates feed waste.
Watch the video to see a robotic feeder in action.