Saturday, May 23, 2015

Cows learn fast that robots milking them is cool

Running on about 7 hours of sleep in the last 90 hours has taken its toll.  I have fallen behind on updating my robotic experience.  I shall try to get caught up here quickly.

On Tuesday morning we tried to start milking through the new flat barn with robotic milking machines.  The plan was 7 a.m. to start.  We had cows lined up, people there, the tech people from Lely & most important, Charlie.  Charlie is a dairyman from Wisconsin.  Robots were installed on his family's dairy in 2000.  He is an expert.  He proved to be  very valuable on common sense, practical solutions & tips to a successful start up for the robotic dairy. 

We had been told to milk the cows normally through the parlor on Tuesday morning.  Therefore the cows udders were not too tight with milk by 7.  That proved to be a bit of a problem.  I also learned that with a robotic milking system exactness and preciseness is key.  The instructions stated that the camera has to be on a 6 degree slant downward.  That means exactly 6 percent. Crap, I didn't even know they made digital levels, but after the techs trip to Home Depot for one, and a wait to get the cows udders fuller and then fixing the cameras to have the precise angle with the digital level, we started milking a bit past noon. 


Holy cow, was it fun! Looking back, that is anyway.  At the time, I was sore, worn out & stressed.  We had to run all the cows into the stall and prep them by hand.  Then we "drove" the robot to its position below and in front of the front teats of the cow.  At that point we pushed the button, and WA- la!!!!  The robot started its laser scanning for the teats. It scanned up and down twice and then went to attaching the teat cups to the teats (see the video!).  It was a long day & by the night we were still working on getting the cows through for the second time.  We cleaned up the robots, ran a wash, cleaned the corrals and then it was onward and upward.

Second time through we didn't have to prep the cows, the teat scrubber brush prepped the cows teats by the coordinates from the previous milking.  Neither did we have to "drive" the robot on many cows... the robot "maps" the cows teats and udder from the previous successful attachments.  Of course, we did have to guide the robots on some of the cows.  It was so much faster than the first time through.  By this time we were now close to 4:30 Wednesday morning.  We took a break for a bit and planned to start up at 6 or so.  People were great.  We had a tech guy on hand for all the training. We had a Dairy Systems Company person there for the entire start up also.  I had my dad, kids, future son in law, workers (full and part time), and my wife to bring us snacks & food. 

Wednesday was a different day & night.  The 3rd milking went well. We progressed and the robots seemed to be building the database of maps of udders and teats.  The attachments went smoother and I was smiling through all my weariness.  Wednesday we took a bit longer break after the third milking and left the robot barn accessible to the cows so they could go through on their own.  We were down about 3.5 hours to wash, clean, scrape corrals and get ready for the night milking.  I will start the next blog with the Wednesday night milking---

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