Automatic milking is the process of milking of diary cattles without the need for human labor.
The milking process generally involves a collection of tasks for the extraction of milk. Maintenance of milk yield requires consistent milking intervals, most commonly twice a day. Such a milking schedule may impose restrictions on time management of an individual farmer. Therefore, to minimize the labor involved in the milking process, the milking machine was introduced in the late 19th century in its basic form. Later, most of the milking processes were automated in the 20th century with the development of automatic milking robots, also known as voluntary milking systems.
According to Klomp C et al (1990), voluntary milking systems are capable of performing the following functions:
- Checking the entry of cows into the system
- Cleaning the udder and teats of cows
- Connecting the milking cups to the teats of the cow
- Recording the amount of milk produced by each cow
- Monitoring the health of each cow
- Storing the milk in a cool place
- Feeding the cow.
These systems have a capacity of milking 50 to 70 cows per milking unit thereby achieving milking frequencies of 2 to 3 times a day. A new variation of automatic milking systems currently being used includes a space for milking two cows at a time.
Design of Cattle Milking Robots
A typical cattle milking robot will comprise of a milking machine, a gate system for controlling cow traffic, a robotic arm for automatic application and removal of a teat cup and a teat position sensor, which is usually a laser.
The location of teats can be identified through a laser control, and teat cups are individually attached to each teat beneath the cow using the robot arm. The cup is reconnected quickly if it is kicked off.
Each cow is provided with an electronic tag, which is read when the cow enters the unit, and the information is passed to the control system. The cow is sent out through the gate system if it has been milked recently.
The sensor system monitors the color, flow and conductivity of the milk to ensure maximum quality. Milk obtained with blood is separated and discarded or sent to a holding place. The cups are disconnected when the milking is complete, and the cows are allowed to exit the system through the gate. Milking can occur throughout the day and night.
Moreover, if the cow that is being treated with some medicine enters the unit, the milk can be automatically passed into the holding area or discarded. The same can be done for the cow that has recently calved to retain colostrum. All this can be done if accurate information is input into the computer system. Regular checking of the computer system enables the stockman to identify cows with illness and that are overdue for milking.
Advantages of Cattle Milking Robots
The key benefits of cattle milking robots include the following:
- Increased milking frequency
- High quality milk
- Continuous voluntary milking
- Easier identification and treatment of diseases
- Better herd management.
Products on the Market – Advancement
An increasing demand for labors at affordable rates and high quality milk has led to the development of automated robotic milking systems by several companies for use in dairies. Some of the milking robotic systems that are commercially available in the market include the following:
Voluntary Milking System Station
Developed by DeLaval, this exclusive, hydraulic powered robotic arm ensures improved reliability and reduces service requirements when compared to other pneumatic systems. It features an arm made of reinforced stainless steel to withstand rough environment. It also includes a high performance teat visualization system having an optical camera that is attached with dual lasers to ensure fast and accurate teat localization. This multi-purpose arm easily manages wide or low udder irregularities and teats inclined up to 45°.
The advantages of voluntary milking system station include the following:
- Fast and quiet milking operation
- Consistent repetitive procedures
- High efficiency milking
- Profitable dairy operation.
The MR-S1™, a revolutionary milking robot developed by BouMatic Robotics has an entirely different approach to automated milking.
Unlike other milking systems that milks from the side, this system milks the cow from behind without distracting the cow, thereby promoting a complete and smooth milking process. It features an identification system that identifies whether the cow needs to be milked and a robotic arm that performs the milking process. The data about washing, priming, and milking is stored in the database.
The key benefits of MR-S1™ include the following:
- Compact design
- Safety to animals
- Increased reliability
- Low maintenance costs
- Reliable and elaborate software
- Optimized cleaning program
- Low water and energy consumption.
The MR-D1, another product developed by BouMatic Robotics, is a compact milking robot with a double box. It can milk two cows at the same time. It features one robot arm, an identification system and a camera.
The single robot can complete the entire milking process that is continuously monitored by sensors and measurement devices. Deviations with respect to the milking process are clearly indicated.
The following are the advantages of MR-D1:
- Accurate milking process
- Well-organized technical area
- Continuous monitoring of milking process
- Safety to animals.
MR-S1TM Milking Robot by BouMatic Robotics.
Sources and Further Reading