Is a robotic milking system in your future?

Over 300 U.S. dairy farms have automatic milking systems.

According to Dr. Doug Reinemann, UW-Madison milking system specialist and College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Associate Dean for Extension and Outreach, over 300 U.S. dairy farms have automatic milking systems (AMS), also known as robotic milking systems. That number is much higher in Canada and even greater in Europe.

Some reasons for choosing automatic milking systems include a lack of labor, including reliable labor, and flexibility when cows are milked. Although dairy farmers may choose robotic milking systems for the aforementioned reasons, AMS requires a very high level of management and service skills. In addition, robotic milking systems are capital-intensive investments. 

Dairy farmers, consultants, and service providers interested in learning more about automatic milking systems technology can attend the Building Our Dairy Future: Robotic Milking Systems Performance and Efficiency Seminar on  Monday, Jan. 28. The seminar will be held at the Osthoff Resort, Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin beginning with registration at 10 a.m. 

The program will start at 10:30 a.m. with a presentation entitled, “Robotic Facilities Design Considerations” by Jouni Pitkaranta, an architect with 4d Barn located in Oulu, Finland. Pitkaranta specializes in dairy, young stock, and calf barn design especially focused on robotic milking barn design. He has designed about 600 dairy barns mostly in Finland, but also in Sweden, Estonia, Russia, Lithuania, Holland, and Germany.

His presentation will be followed by a presentation on the “Economics of Automatic Milking Systems”, by Dr. Larry Tranel, a Dairy Field Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Dr. Tranel specializes in financial analysis of all types of dairy farms.

Pitkaranta will return for the afternoon session with a presentation on labor efficiency of automatic milking system barns. This presentation will be based on his work on an international robot barn labor efficiency project monitoring robot barn performance in numerous barns in Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, and the United States.

A panel entitled, “The Good, The Bad, and The Unknown” will complete the day-long program. The discussion will focus on a single robotic dairy farm along with their lender, AMS equipment installer, and barn builder.

Panelists include Larry and Jennifer Meyer, owners of JenLar Holsteins. Switching to an automatic milking system in early 2017, both Larry and Jennifer have full-time off-the-farm jobs while milking 120 Swiss and Holstein cows. JenLar Holsteins’ lender, Kevin Coffeen, vice president of BMO Harris, will accompany Jennifer and Larry Meyer on the panel. Representing JenLar’s AMS equipment dealer will be Barry Pavlat, Farm Management Support Manager for Abts Lely Center. Fox Cities Builders, Meyer’s robotic barn builder, will be represented by the president of FCB, Phil Ullmer.

Cost for the program is $30 per person and the registration deadline is Jan. 18. 

To register for this event, please make checks payable to UW-Extension and send them to: Robotic Milking Systems, 121 West Main Street, PO Box 994, Port Washington, Wisconsin 53074. Registration may also be made by credit card for a $3 per person convenience fee. To do so, please call 920-929-3171.

The program is sponsored by UW-Extension offices in Washington, Ozaukee, Calumet, Fond du Lac, and Manitowoc counties.  Financial support is provided from those offices as well as from Compeer Financial and GreenStone Farm Credit Services.

For more information contact Steph Plaster at 262-335-4482; Tina Kohlman at 920-929-3180; Amber O’Brien at 92-849-1450; or Scott Gunderson at 920-683-4175.