Friday, June 19, 2015

Monitoring the robots is a big project.

The dairy consultant that is my rep from the company where I purchased the robots is a great help.  He is looking at the data on my computer via “team viewer” and helping me to monitor the cows and the progress that we are making, the problems that exist, and areas that we can improve on. 

One issue with me is that this company is from the Netherlands and hasn’t incorporated US English into the CRS ( the brains of the operation) .  The CRS calls my phone if there are “alarms” and most of the time I hear what the machine is saying, but I don’t understand (like listening to my wife).  The alarms are things such as- if there are 3 consecutive failures, a sensitivity sensor is out, filter not changed, low water pressure, low air pressure, waste milk buckets full & so forth.  It calls me and for some of the alarms it shuts down the robot. For others it is not critical, so it continues to milk.  I consider it a major accomplishment to be able to sleep through the night without a call from the CRS.  I have the phone number of my CRS programmed into my phone as “Domo Gory Oto, Mr. Roboto”  words from a song, when I was a bit younger. 

I have actually gotten two nights of consecutive uninterrupted sleep finally and so I am thinking that life is going to be good and get back to normal.

I have a  bunch of neighbors who ask about the how the robots are doing, and I usually reply somehow along the line of – well, the robots have been kicked- but they didn’t cuss the cow, slap the cow, just went right back to milking. The robots haven’t called in sick, had to leave to run an errand, showed up late, nor argued with each other.  I might think I have the perfect milking machine, IF we could get all the bugs worked out of it and running a bit better.

Overall the robot experience is looking up and getting better. It still has room to improve and we must get more improvement on efficiencies and increased milk production. We need to get better cow flow and have the cows totally trained.  That will probably never happen, since there are new ones calving indefinitely, but we will keep milking along!      


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

13 Alarms in one day on the "brains" of the system

Sunday May 31
Today sucked. 
It's Sunday night. I haven't been in the house a total of an hour since 5:30 a.m.  I had thirteen errors today on the CRS - that's the brains that control all the valves, air lines, robots, milk pumps etc....
I had my future son in law and his family and some of my daughter's friends over and showed the robot room and Automatic Milking System to them Saturday night.  I must have bragged it up too much. I was sure thinking things were starting the smooth track. Boy, was that bad thinking.
Dan, from Lely, has been a good help this week with adjusting the computer and putting up more dashboard type instruments to watch and monitor cow flow, milk, feed intake, successful attachments & not successful and also box time and prep time.  It is good to see that we are improving.
Robots have been up and running now for about 12 days.  The first six were lousy to miserable to retrain and lots of unexpected problems.  The second group of six were repositioning cameras to the original settings, spending time inside the robot room to "drive" the robots to the correct starting point, and now things appear to be looking up. 

We continue to have many visitors to the dairy to watch the robots work.  When the robots are all working it is truly an amazing site to watch the unmanned dairy barn at work.  I still do not trust that all is going well.  I don't sleep well.  I get up at all hours of the night and go check on the robots.  I am fascinated at how well they work in the night.  I believe from looking at all the information that is generated from the computer that the robots are most efficient at nighttime.  When nobody is around scraping corrals, fluffing up the beds, nor just checking on the cows, it seems that the cows love to go get milked by the robots. 

We continue to increase milk each day, and are almost back to the level of production prior to robot installation.  The components, both fat and protein, are both up slightly since switching to robots to milk.  I know we are not as rough on the milk, beating it with motor impellors and dropping it into the tank from above & I wonder how much effect that has on components.  I continue to be in awe that we can fill the milk tank from the bottom just pushing the milk with air.  It is a great sound to sit in the tank room and hear a cow's milk from the robot room being plunged with air into the tank & hear the gurgling sound as it is pushed into the bottom of the tank. 

Biggest problem is that I am still really disappointed that the robots will not milk my smaller animals, especially the young jersey cows.  I feel that I was a bit deceived by the messages that were placed out there of the success of all cows regardless of size.  I am even more nervous looking to the future as I have a bunch of jersey heifers bred & ready to calve this summer and fall.  I wonder what plans I may have to change, or what programs to implement to try to mitigate this problem.  I am still waiting to see and hear what Lely and DSC have to say and do to mitigate this issue.
Things seemed to be much better this evening than they were early this morning and most of the day.
We are about 20 days at least behind at planting corn. Most of my fields where we plant corn are partially under water.  The rain from the last 25 days has sure left us a long way behind and a lot of catching up to do.    I hope we finally have a good week both with the robots and making headway with working some fields if they dry enough so we can get some corn seed in the ground.

Unmanned flat barn milking 24 hours a day

Well, it has been a while since I posted, so I am looking over my notes to see the progress made and some of the happenings at the robots. 
Dairy farming is more than just milking cows and taking care of livestock each day.  Here at the dairy we also put up feed for the cows.  I have complained about the rain in prior posts, but it has us a long ways behind on getting corn planted and hay put up. 

Last week was spent swathing hay, chopping hay, raking hay - trying to bale hay and then the rain came again, so we raked the hay again and then continued baling another day.  All of this is happening while we are still trying to prepare some ground to plant corn, and actually plant the corn.  I finished planting the corn yesterday on June 15.  One of my wise old neighbors said that he has always heard that if it isn't planted by June 10 to not plant, because it will not mature.  I hope I get an extra five days this year because about half my corn acres were planted after the 10th of June.

As I have been in the fields and my father with me, my kids have really stepped up with putting the cows through the robots.  The cows were going through so well that we moved about a dozen more down to the robot pen.  That was probably a bad idea looking back.  We also have had about 30 cows calve in the last 25 days.  The fresh cows take extra time to train them and care for them for the first days after calving.  It is very interesting how some of the fresh cows seem to learn remarkable fast and others are a bit   s l o w e r   in their learning.  That is a lot like us humans, huh???

A bit of the background here is that on most all dairies when a human goes into the pen it is to bring up the entire herd of cows to the holding pen, where the cows wait to enter the milking parlor.  So with robotic milking barns, where the cows have access every day all day long, we don't move the entire herd anywhere really all at once.  We go get select cows that the computer tells us to go get.
Anyway, the robots are milking good and getting better. 

We have learned that there are a few cows you want to stay away from.  We are in the corrals more the last 3+ weeks with the cows, without really making most of them go anywhere, and we have found that a bunch of the cows just want to come "hang out" around us and lick us, our clothes, even want to bunt us and be playful with us. Bronco's favorite cow has become #920.  He calls her "Licker" because that is exactly what she does!  She follows him around the pen trying to lick his neck and even licked Heidi one day when she was out there. 

More tomorrow.