As you look back on that fateful day, it seems time will forever be distinguished between pre- and post-installation.

You did your homework, had endless discussions with dealers and manufacturers, justified the investment and even spent nights dreaming about it. You knew this cutting-edge robotic milking technology was the tool you needed to meet your own high standards for production and milk quality.

The robot was installed, life is good – and now the real fun begins.

Robotic milking can help to strike a healthy balance between the needs of the farm operation and the goals and dreams of your family. Your expertise and good management, combined with innovative technology, can help you achieve your performance goals – however you define them.

To optimize the robot’s performance, and help prevent midnight wake-up calls, consider the following five key points:

  1. Establishing a preventative maintenance plan from day one is a must. This is a key component for any robotic dairy and should never be an afterthought. Besides keeping the system performing at its best, it also helps lower the total cost of ownership.

    Catching small-dollar parts instead of waiting for major repairs helps eliminate any emergency service calls. Keeping to a preventative maintenance plan also helps ensure your routine visits will be from the dealer tech who best knows the robot and your farm.

  2. Cleanliness of the robot is significantly tied to the frequency of alerts and goes hand-in-hand with good maintenance. Routinely cleaning the robot of manure and other debris prevents residue from building on the camera. Even if no alarm sounds, a dirty camera will prolong the time it takes the robot to attach, and stall times will be evident.

    Besides potentially creating a negative experience for the cow, the additional time for each milking will translate into a loss in productivity and capacity. Maintaining a clean robot at a time convenient for you reduces the chances of any issues at an inconvenient time. Cleaning should also extend to the herd to ensure hygienic conditions, including singed udder hair.

  3. Adjust wash times to coincide with working hours if possible. Consider running the wash cycle three times per day, preferably during low-traffic periods. Keep in mind that all components are engaged during the wash cycle. Therefore, if anything can cause an issue, it will during this time frame.

    Plan around your lifestyle. A robot waking you up may just mean it needs to be reprogrammed. Instead of running the wash at 3 a.m., aim for 10 p.m., when you’re still awake. You could also program the robot to alert a different mobile device at different times of the day to free up your time.

  4. Do visual inspections on a daily basis and plan for at least one toward the end of the night. There are simple items you can check to reduce the chance of an alert. Check for tight connections, the condition of the milk cups and milk meters. Make sure the passive air inlet is properly calibrated since improper air pressure will affect other systems.

    Go beyond your robot as well. There could be an idle alarm due to an obstructed gate or cows not visiting the system. Make sure cow comfort is a priority so they are eager to be milked. Never let hardware or software remove you from daily physical interactions with the equipment or the animals; always stay involved.

  5. Be an informed dairy operator and familiarize yourself with the robot. If possible, be present at start-up and during the milking process to learn how things look and sound – from teat cleaning to attachment to milking, post-milking and cleaning itself.

    This provides a wealth of information about the air, vacuum and basic functioning of equipment. All these noises should be familiar based on daily robot maintenance.

The more you know how a properly maintained machine is functioning, the quicker you can be to identify when it needs attention. Also, seek out additional training since the field of robotics is growing and new information is available daily.

Network with other robotic dairy operators to share best practices and improve operations. Partner with your dealership to implement proactive and effective herd management techniques to ensure a high level of technical service.

An alert’s only purpose is to inform you and help you proactively make better management decisions. Clear out existing alerts – but not before they are investigated to understand their source.

Not looking into an alert allows a potential issue to grow. In addition, check the list of notifications to provide more in-depth insight into how the robot is functioning.

The next generation of farmers is the most educated and progressive we have seen. As they search for innovations that can make farming easier to manage, they are also looking to find time to enjoy life.

Automation, precision data and robotics are big aspirations that can provide a better way of life for tomorrow’s farmers. The sooner you get to know your robot, the easier this transition becomes.  PD

PHOTO: An alert’s only purpose is to inform you and help you proactively make better management decisions. Clear out existing alerts – but not before they are investigated to understand their source. Not looking into an alert allows a potential issue to grow. Photo provided by DeLaval.

Yannick Daudin is a robotic technical manager with DeLaval. Email Yannick Daudin.