Hands-off milking a hit

LIBBY WILSON
Last updated 12:54 11/06/2014
Sam Anderson demonstrates a robotic milker at the Lely stand at the 2014 National Agricultural Fieldays at Mystery Creek.
PETER DRURY/Fairfax NZ

HANDS FREE: Sam Anderson demonstrates a robotic milker at the Lely stand at the 2014 National Agricultural Fieldays at Mystery Creek.

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Daisy can milk herself if she shimmies up to a robot, and hourly demonstrations at Fieldays are attracting a crowd.

A robotic milking system developed by Lely means the girls can decide when they need milking, without a farmer in sight.

"It's a 24-hour system, so the cows will just move into the robots when they want to," Lely New Zealand national sales manager Sam Anderson said.

"The robot's been designed from the cow out."

A number of the systems had been installed around New Zealand over the past 18 months, although he wouldn't be drawn on the exact figure or price range.

In the Waikato, case studies were the McConnell farm in Puketaha, which provided the cows on display, and the Weal farm in Te Awamutu.

The first Lely system was sold in Holland 22 years ago.

Labour savings, increased productivity and better animal health were the main drivers for people making the switch, Anderson said.

Cows adapted to the system – which rewards them with food while they milk - in about three days.

As well as the hands-off milking, the set-up monitors herd information like weight and milk volume.

It gave the dairy farmers leaning on the gates around the demonstration yard plenty to mull on.

North Waikato dairy farmer Grant Kenna was after all the information he could get.

"That's how we see things heading in the future. I was just gathering a bit of information to see if it would fit our system. And we've got some contacts to carry on and look at some farms with robotics."

Semi-retired Tirau dairy farmer Dolina Gudgeon was keen on the idea but thought it was too late in her farming stint to change over.

"I think on a bigger farm than ours it'd be a real idea".

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