When dairy producers consider adding milking robots to their operation, they often have many questions concerning barn design. So what is the ideal design for a robotic barn?
According to Jack Rodenburg, with DairyLogix Consulting in Ontario, Canada, design can impact traffic flow, cow comfort, and the overall success of a robotic milking facility.
“Robotic milking can do a tremendous amount to reduce dairy farm labor,” Rodenburg said. “If properly implemented, robots can reduce labor in the barn by as much as 30 to 40 percent.”
Rodenburg outlined factors to consider during “Barn design for robotic milking,” a Hoard’s Dairyman webinar sponsored by Lely North America.
When designing an automated milking barn, keep these factors in mind:
First, provide facilities for efficient separation and handling of individual cows.
“Even if farmers aren’t milking anymore, they may spend extra time moving cows around if they haven’t thought about an efficient way to handle individual cows,” he said.
Second, consider an area for special needs cows, such as fresh cows or lame cows.
“You would like to have those cows in an area of the barn, close to the robots, where they are going to thrive,” Rodenburg said.
Third, remember the importance of behavior and social rank of cows. This can affect how cows move through the system.
In robot barns, free-cow traffic, which allows cows to have access to feeding and resting areas without restriction, is important.
Managing free-cow traffic systems requires adequate space in front of robots. Rodenburg recommends 20 feet from the milking box to the first free stall. He also recommends locating cow brushes, computer feeders and pasture selection gates far away from this area to spread out barn activity.
Rodenburg identified 12 key barn design considerations including:
- Free-cow traffic
- Open space in front of robots
- Footbath lane
- All robots should face the same way
- Simple routes for fetching
- Simple routes from group-to-group
- Handling chute
- Gating for one-person handling
- Flexible separation area
- Fresh and lame pack
- Stress-free calving line
- Perimeter feeding
There are many factors to consider when designing a robotic barn. Let us help you get started by taking a look five common robot configurations.