Robots in the milking shed

DIANE BISHOP
Last updated 11:37 13/02/2014
Southern Field Days 2014
DIANE BISHOP/Fairfax NZ

Rose the friesian cow is keen to get milked by the Lely Astronaut robot at the Southern Field Days.

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Higher milk production and more relaxed cows are some of the benefits of robotic milking.

Lely is hosting the first live robotic milking demonstration in New Zealand at the Southern Field Days at Waimumu in a bid to dispel the myths about the practice.

Lely national sales manager Trent Finlay said many farmers thought robotics only suited European barn-style farming, but most farmers using robots in New Zealand were on pasture.

Crowds gathered around to watch the cows being milked by a Lely Astronaut robot yesterday with two cows getting milked on the hour every hour.

A small cow house had been built by Cowhouse Construction to host the 10 cows during the field days.

Robotic milking had been around for more than 20 years, Mr Finlay said.

It was introduced in the Netherlands in 1992 but it was not until 2008 that the first robotic milking operation was established in Southland.

Cows produced up to 15 per cent more milk under a robotic milking system because they could be milked when they wanted - up to four times a day - and they were more relaxed, he said.

"They're not being chased around the paddock by a quad bike."

Another benefit was the reduced labour requirement which meant farmers were able to focus more on looking after their young stock and running the farm.

Lely had been committed to putting on a live milking demonstration at the field days and was focused on ensuring the cows were well looked after. "We were prepared to pull the pin at any time if the cows weren't happy."

The robotic milking system had the ability to alert farmers to any cows with mastitis and separate the infected milk and wash the plant before the next cow was milked.

Mr Finlay said there were several robotic milking farms operating in Southland, Canterbury and the Waikato and the first one was about to be introduced to the Hawke's Bay region.

While it took a cow about three days to adjust to the robots, it took farmers much longer than that.

"Some farmers have trouble being hands-off at milking time," he said.

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- The Southland Times

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