M.Sc Thesis


M.Sc StudentUri Drach
SubjectA new concept for herding dairy cows to a milking robot
DepartmentDepartment of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Supervisors Assistant Professor Degani Amir
Dr. Ilan Halachmi


Abstract

Cow motivation to be milked is a key factor in milking robot utilization. However, if a cow does not voluntarily attend a robot stall, laborious fetching work is required. Feeding, cooling, and behavioral studies have previously tried to solve this problem by willingly attracting the cows to the milking robot. None of them achieved full success since the fetching work was still required. Therefore, this research suggests a new concept of using an Automatic Herding System (AHS) to herd all the cows to the milking robot.

In this research, we developed and tested the AHS, which is a low cost automatic system of slow moving mobile fences controlled by an industrial controller. Our hypothesis was that the AHS can add 0.25 Milking Per Day (MPD) for each cow. This method assures that every cow is milked in a frequency that is set by the farmer. The objective of the research was to maximize the mean number of milkings (per cow, per day), without labor, while maintaining farm profitability and cow welfare.

A single fence prototype of the AHS was built in order to examine the integration between the mechanical parts and the control system. After testing the integration and control system in a controlled environment, the AHS was built in a commercial farm with two milking robots. The experiment was conducted for three months. The farm was divided into a control group (43 cows) and an experiment group (39 cows). The AHS was installed only in the experiment group.

Milking frequency increased in the experiment group by 46% (1.88 milkings/d vs. 2.75 milkings/d), while there was no major change in the milking frequency in the control group 2% (2.38 milkings/d vs. 2.43 milkings/d). Milk yield increased in the experiment group 17% (35.05 kg/d vs. 41.06 kg/d). There was no major change in the yield in control group 2% (30.5 kg/d vs. 31.1 kg/d). The number of cows with less than 2.5 MPD has decreased in 94% (87% vs. 5%) which caused for a decrease in labor time for fetching the cows to the milking robot of the experiment group of 80% (5 h/day vs. 1 h/day) while there was increase in the labor work time of 6% of the control group.

The robot efficiency increased in only 6% (65.4% vs. 69.3%) while there was an increase of 41.5% (91.2 vs. 129.1) in total MPD. Therefore, it is possible to increase the number of milkings without affecting the milking robot efficiency while increasing the number of cows in the herd.

In conclusion, an AHS was designed and implemented. The system was examined and appeared to be a positive complementary system to the automatic milking system. The AHS was associated with higher milking frequency, higher milk yield and labor reduction, therefore, economic benefits of the system are expected.