Dairy robots deliver big time savings but costs remain high
Robots improve quality of life on a typical dairy farm, but at an annual cost of up to €9,000 compared to a standard milking parlour, according to the preliminary findings from Teagasc.
The automated system has the capacity to reduce labour requirements by a third, saving the dairy farmer up to 3.5 hours daily. However, the major drawback is the initial capital investment and the running costs, both of which can be almost double the basic conventional system.
The findings of the ongoing Teagasc trial were presented by Cathriona Foley and John Shortall to a large gathering of farmers at the Irish Grassland Association meeting on the farm of Aidan and Anne Power, Latteragh, Templederry, North Tipperary.
Data compiled during the study found that robotic systems use 68pc more electricity per litre of milk than conventional systems, at 72kw/annum compared to 42kw/annum. Consumables cost up to 60pc more, while service costs were doubled.
The analysis has been based on a 140 cow herd, comparing two robotic units to a 20 unit conventional herringbone system with automatic cluster removers (ACRs).
The researchers highlighted how competitive the robotic system was when compared with a high-tech 20-unit herringbone milking system, where the difference in cost was marginal.
"The running costs for the high-spec parlours are high due to greater energy consumption and higher servicing costs than the medium-spec parlour even though the labour input is the same. When the increased repayments are factored in, there is not much difference between the high-spec parlour and the robots. But there is a big difference between the robot and the medium-spec parlour," concluded Mr Shortall.
The purchasing cost for the two robots in the Teagasc research was €239,000, compared to installing a medium-spec 20-unit herringbone with ACRs for €130,000. The high-tech 20-unit herringbone was priced at €195,000, with all the costs for building included.