Farm Ireland

Friday 23 February 2018

Robot machines put to the test

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

With massive growth in the use of robotic milking machines across Europe, researchers at Teagasc Moorepark are investigating the use of robotic machines in grass-based systems.

Dr Padraig French, head of livestock systems at Moorepark said the aim of the project was to see how robotic systems could be used by farmers with fragmented farms.

Using a Merlin 225 robotic machine from Fullwood Packo, the researchers are milking 75 cows at Teagasc's Kilworth farm.

The cows are a mixture of Norwegian Red and Jersey cross-breeds and Holstein Friesian cows that were previously milked in a herringbone parlour.

"There has been massive growth in robotic machines across Europe, with over 50pc of new machines in Holland and Denmark being robotic systems," he said.

"However, the growth in popularity of robotic machines goes hand in hand with less grass in the diet.

"We want to know what the potential of these robots would be on a grass-based system like we have in Ireland," said Dr French.

"The majority of robotic units would be installed for their labour-saving benefits and the lifestyle changes they bring about."

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"However, we think that robotic milking machines have potential for use on fragmented farms, where a farmer could have a number of robots located on separate blocks of land."

The Teagasc herd is currently operating on 1.9-2 milkings per cow per day and the grazing block has been designed so that the cows must go to be milked before moving to a new block of pasture.

Each day's grass allocation is divided into three separate blocks and to get to the next block, each cow must present herself at the robotic milker.

The project is part of a three-year €2.5m European-funded project, which is being run in five countries including Ireland.

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