Robotic milking: Sensors, robotics help cows, farmers, quality

Milk production increases, cows seem happier with robotic milking, a new method of farm management. Advanced sensor techniques and an integrated farm management program provide state-of-the-art tools for a highly efficient milking process and milk quality control.


When launching the Astronaut robotic milking system, Lely Group ilking process and milk quality control. 

Cows seem to like their robotic milking system.

All of the peripherals are linked to the central supervision PC via Ethernet network. Due to the high level of automation, Lely chose to use Westermo SDW 550 switches for harsh environment Ethernet connectivity. “Our robots work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” says Sander J.P. Van Leeuwen, Product Specialist Robotic Milking Systems, “and with our first implementation or Ethernet network in our Astronaut system we wanted to have the highest levels of reliability.”
With the T4C management program, it is possible to manage the data of each individual cow. Each cow is free to visit the robot when it chooses and as often as she likes. In most cases she reports for milking more then 2 times a day, this results in yield increases of up to 20%. A milk quality control system ensures optimum control of udder health and milk quality by means of color and conductivity measurements.
According to the company, Lely’s Astronaut milking robot ensures complete handling of the milking process from pre-treatment, through connecting the teat cups, up to (thanks to laser sensors) and including after-treatment by means of an udder treatment spray. Reliability and fast processing are key issues. The milking robot is a 24/7 working machine and all breakdowns have to be solved as soon as possible. For instance, at the end of the milking every robot requests if it is allowed to pump the milk to the main milk tank. Sometimes the milk has to be transferred to an external bucket because the cow had antibiotics or is producing colustrum (first milk for the calf). This decision — and the corresponding pumping — have to be processed quickly to allow the next cow to be milked. All data related to each milking is also processed in real time, including information on milk quality, and are registered in the robot’s T4C management system.
— Edited by C.G. Masi , senior editor
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