Future farming: Robot feeds Southland dairy cows

The use of robotics in the dairy industry has taken a step forward, with the launch of the first robotic feed pusher in New Zealand to also refresh and remix feed.

The new robot has just been installed on a Southland dairy farm and uses cutting edge technology to remix and reposition supplementary feed in barns and on feed pads. 

It can also be programmed to position and mix feed around the clock, to increase feed intake and reduce waste. 

Bruce Eade, who farms pedigree Ayrshires and Holstein Friesians near Gore, said the farm had already seen a milk production increase and savings on labour costs.

"We're not people who invest in new technology just for the sake of it," he said.

"We had been pushing feed out with a tractor but when we started autumn calving and winter milking we could justify buying a robot to give the cows automated access to more palatable feed throughout the day and night," said Eade

The robot works 24/7.
The robot works 24/7. Photo credit: Supplied

The farm had previously been using a tractor-mounted tyre to push feed to the winter milking herd, which required a trip to the barn every night. 

The robot, developed by DeLaval, works 24/7 and features a twin-spiralled rotating auger that lifts, mixes, and aerates the feed while repositioning feed closer to the fence.

"I've just added an extra run, so the cows are now getting well-mixed feed seven times in 24 hours. We've already seen an increase of nearly one litre per cow per day in milk production at a time when this is the only thing that's changed on the farm."

"It's also nice to know that I don't have to pull my boots back on after dinner and head back down to the barn late at night." 

DeLaval's Katrina Lee said there had also been interest in the technology from dairy goat farmers.

"Automated feed mixing and repositioning helps maximise dry matter intake, minimise feed sorting, and allows cows more time for lying down and ruminating," she said. 

She said the use of robotics was helping farmers address industry challenges.

"Animal welfare, farm profitability, work efficiency and food safety are challenges that farmers around the globe face with increasing pressure."