It has been a year of breakthroughs by companies introducing automation in a number of industries. Outside of agriculture, at least two airports have announced they are experimenting with automated snow clearing of runways. Golf course grass-cutting robots have also made an appearance, and the list goes on.
There are already several prototype field robots at work on farms, but it is really the dairy sector that first started seeing the commercial application of robots in ag, putting them to work in barns, which is one of the most practical places for automation. The barn is, after all, a very similar environment to industrial manufacturing and assembly plants where automation has long-since taken over many production tasks.
This spring DeLaval, a prominent name in dairy barn equipment, announced the introduction of a new robotic product: the OptiDuo Robotic Feed Refresher.
The press release announcing the OptiDuo says it “pushes and remixes feed, making rations more appealing — helping increase consumption and improve milk production.” That sets it apart from regular “feed bunk pushers” that just move feed back toward the bunks and within reach of the animals.
Anyone who has ever managed cattle knows every herd operates on the basis of seniority. The senior cows demand first access to feed while the junior cows and heifers patiently wait their turn for access. But the senior cows will select the best, most palatable feed and leave the less nutritious content for the junior cows, who come later. That can negatively affect the growth, fertility and milk production of those junior individuals. DeLaval claims the OptiDuo can help prevent that.
“Not only does it push feed back to the feed bunk, but it remixes it, making it more appealing to cows by avoiding compression and helping to reduce waste,” reads the press release. “More visits to the feedbunk may also mean better cow traffic and less competition and stress while eating. With OptiDuo, cows can consume more, resulting in higher milk yields of up to two kilograms per day. OptiDuo is the only feed pusher on the market with an optional concentrate dispenser, further enticing cows to eat more.”
The OptiDuo’s safety systems allow it to operate continuously without supervision due to what the company calls its smart navigation system. That helps ensure it always operates within the defined area it is supposed to be. Safety bumpers on all sides of the machine will automatically stop the unit if it senses a person, object or animal.
DeLaval’s OptiDuo will work in all types of barns, according to the company, and it is compatible with both conventional and robotic milking systems.
“It’s a great addition to DeLaval VMS operation,” said Muhieddine Labban, robotics solution manager. “It complements the dairy producer’s feeding strategy between the milking robot and the feed bunk.”