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The Southwest Dairy Day was recently held at T&K Dairy, owned by the Collier family of Snyder, Texas. The program emphasized automatic milking systems, rumination collars, robotic feed pushers, ventilation and manure management. (Courtesy photo.)

The Southwest Dairy Day was recently held at T&K Dairy, owned by the Collier family of Snyder, Texas, and the program emphasized automatic milking systems, rumination collars, robotic feed pushers, ventilation and manure management. 

“The highlight of this year’s event was the automatic milking systems, specifically stationary milking robots,” said Jennifer Spencer, Ph.D., Texas AgriLife Extension state dairy specialist. “It requires fewer employees and allow the cows to be milked whenever they want.” 

Although robots have been commercially available since the early 1990s, T&K Dairy just installed its robotic milking system in August. In the T&K stationary robotic dairy facility, it milks approximately 800 cows. Spencer says the reduced labor requirements allows producers more time for their personal life and gives them more flexibility.

“The Collier family says the system replaced three to four employees, however, that can depend farm to farm based on herd size and various management systems and operations,” Spencer explained.

Additionally, stationary robotics allow for computer systems to divert cows that need to be bred in a separate pen, which allows for all cows to be at a central location and producers will not have to go through pens to locate these animals. Just like other milking parlors, stationary robotic technology allows for great management of records that can document each milking, weight and frequency of milking. The system also alerts producers of disease.

“Robotic milkers can detect diseases such as mastitis, based on the conductivity of the milk,” Spencer said. “If this occurs, milk is diverted and never ends up in the milk tank. Following detection, cows are sent to a separate area, the system flags the cow and immediately notifies the producer and the cow is treated.”

This system also allows for cows to milk themselves, which caters to cows of all kinds. Spencer says some cows may milk more frequently than others, especially when they begin their lactation after calving because their mammary gland is developing and cells are becoming more active in the udder. Other cows may not need or want to be milked as frequently and this allows them the ability to milk whenever they please. 

“However, if cows do not go and milk after a certain number of hours, she may not be feeling well and so she will be flagged and an employee can go find the cow and evaluate her,” Spencer added.

Stationary robotics provide a multitude of information and services which can make dairy operations more efficient, but the overarching theme of these systems is lower labor requirements, a big concern for dairies in general.

“I believe that one of the best aspects of a stationary robotic milking system is that it allows producers to have a more flexible schedule and focus on their personal life and spend time with their families,” Spencer said.

Lacey Newlin can be reached at lnewlin@hpj.com.

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