Five things to consider when looking into robotic milkers

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Robotic milker check
Kelly Ginnetti, 16, checks the monitor of a Lely robotic milking machine on her family’s dairy farm near Alliance, Ohio. Her mother, Sharon, says she tends to leave the technology for the next generation, as it is easier for them to pick up. However, dairymen should not be afraid to use the technology as it is user-friendly for all ages. (Catie Noyes photo)

Dealers for Lely, DeLaval and farmers using robotic milking systems currently shared what to consider for when installing a robotic milker on your dairy farm.

1 Cost
While the upfront cost to install a robotic milker can cause a bit of sticker shock to the small dairy producer, it is important to factor in the long-term savings. For example, labor costs are decreased while production is increased. Any robotic dealer can work with you to determine potential savings, and return on investment. As technology keeps evolving and advancing, the cost will eventually come down, said Chip Fohl, salesman for Hills Dairy Supply Inc.

2 Understanding the data
The data provided by the robotic milkers can be a powerful tool, but it can also be overwhelming. Carving out a little time during a rainy day to evaluate the data can be beneficial in increasing herd production and improving herd health. Robotic milking dealers often have online support centers and tutorials to help you navigate your data.

3 Visit other farms
Visit other farms and ask lots of questions. If you have a layout in mind for your new facility, bring it along with you and ask the producer you’re visiting if they have a moment to look at your plans, said Joe Ramsier, one of the first dairymen in Wayne County, Ohio, to install robotic milkers on his farm.

4 Comfort
Most producers who have implemented a robotic milking system agree — the system has made their cows calmer and more friendly. “If I was a cow, I would probably like it,” said Sharon Ginnetti, who installed robots on her Columbiana County farm earlier this year. Instead of having someone different in the parlor every other day, it’s the same robot with the cows, she said. More consistency and cow comfort often equates to more milk production.

5 Training
When the machines are first implemented, it may take some time for the cows to get acclimated to using the robots. Producers may find themselves spending the first week or two guiding the cows to the robot. Some producers say it may take only a couple days, while others say it takes a couple weeks. It can be similar to introducing a heifer to the parlor for the first time.

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Catie Noyes lives in Ashland County and earned a bachelor's degree in agriculture communications from The Ohio State University. She enjoys photography, softball and sharing stories about agriculture. Formerly a reporter for the Farm and Dairy, Catie is now pursuing her master's degree in education.

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