Submitted to: Hoard's Dairyman
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/20/2003
Publication Date: 11/25/2004
Citation: Rotz, C.A. 2004. Should I consider robotic milking?. Hoard's Dairyman. 149(19):733.
Technical Abstract: Robotic milking technology is now well developed for use on dairy farms. There are several potential advantages to robotic milking. A robotic milking system offers the dairy producer relief from the labor-intensive milking routine. Robotic milking can allow more than two milkings per day, which should allow cows to produce more milk. Studies have shown 3 to 11% more milk using robotic milking. Other possible benefits include better health and welfare for the cows. There are, however, some potential drawbacks to robotic milking. For one, the initial investment can be up to three times more than a traditional system for equipment that may not last as many years. Another consideration is a decrease in milk quality due to lower milk solids or higher bacteria counts, which can result in a small decrease in milk price. The benefits of robotic milking were systematically compared to new traditional milking systems using a whole-farm approach. We used a computer simulation model that integrates all the aspects of a dairy farm to compare the long-term performance and economics of these milking systems. The simulator illustrated that robotic milking appears most feasible for smaller dairy farms, like those commonly found in the Northeastern and upper Midwestern states. While well-managed traditional systems normally provided the greatest economic return for all farm sizes, robotic milking was competitive on farms of 50 to 130 cows, with the best results coming from a single-stall unit on a 60-cow farm. Other non-economic issues may influence the decision to adopt robotic milking. Farm owners looking for relief from the milking routine, or who are interested in electronic technology, may find robotic milking to be an intriguing option.