Ron Johnson of DairyStar, writes about Jeff West of Farmersburg, Iowa who was new to computers less than a year ago and has taken to the technology like a cow to pasture. He got started with the machines when he installed three robotic milkers on his 180-cow farm. West decided to invest in Lely A4 robotic milkers because he wanted more information about how his 163 milking Holsteins are doing. The Wests built a double-4 milking parlor in 2000. West said he could have gleaned more cow information by upgrading the parlor, but the twice daily milking was taking six to eight hours a day.
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Thanks to the robots' computer system, and the activity and rumination sensors on the cows' collars, West can be swimming in numbers if he chooses.
"I can tell if a cow is getting sick. I can tell how she is ruminating, whether she's coming into heat," he said.
Along with a wealth of cow information, the move to robotic milkers has rewarded West with more milk in the bulk tank. Production has risen 15 to 20 pounds a day, West said. As of late February, the cows were averaging 83 pounds of milk per day. According to his DHIA test records, the yearly average is approximately 24,000 pounds, on a 305-day lactation.
More good news with the robots: The somatic cell count (SCC) has dropped a bit and is now at roughly 200,000. The fat and protein tests, meanwhile, have stayed steady at 3.9 and 3.1 percent, West said.
Westrich Farms uses a free-flow system that lets cows go to the robots whenever they wish. West said the average number of milkings per cow per day is three. Some cows go through the robots as few as twice a day, while others opt to be milked six times daily.