Doyle Waybrights Insights on Robotics from Mason Dixon Dairy

PDMP Robotics Dairy Issue Forum
Nov 7, 2013
Doyle Waybright
Mason Dixon Farms
It is easier to put a man on the
moon than it is to milk a cow with a
robot. Sept 1969 Buz Aldrin walked
on the moon and it was not till mid
1990s that milking robots were
available commercially. It became
possible by the power of the
History: 2000 Trip to Germany by 2 brothers discovers “new way to milk cows”
Aug 2001
Went to Sweden
Dec 2001
Installed first robot attached to barn
Sold first robot
Jan 2004
Second trip to Sweden
Mar 2005
Commence building Phase I
Nov 2005
Began milking first 10 milking stations
Sep 2009
Started milking in Phase II
Dec 2009
Started milking in new Phase I stations
Milking 1,000+ cows in 20 milking stations, one robot per pen of
50 – 60 cows using guided traffic
2.7X at 78-80 # milk
Avg year around SCC 250,000
Reduce labor – shut down twin double 12 herringbone parlors milking 1000 cows
Note I did not say reduce management
Produce milk at equivalent cost to conventional system - accomplished
But very high up front capital outlay
Herdsmen 2 ½
Barn man – grooming stalls, general cleaning
Repro, foot trimming, bedding and feeding crews go to the barn
Do our own maintenance and repairs
Sick and deviation cows are segregated from the barn
Single ration for the barn, no pen changes
What we’ve learned:
Cows L2+ train easiest
L1 start at 30 DIM
Same milk production, same repro
Better BCS, slightly higher DMI, easy to find a cow
Udder conformation is important, RTP and angle forward teats
Foot health impacts volunteer milking system sooner than conventional
Herdsmen – younger, computer literate, technology savvy
Parts inventory is critical – this year on track for $4000/station
Equipment maintenance is on a schedule but customized for our barn
12 stop alarms avg day
Grain feeding is advantageous – 2 to 10# per cow per day
Not as easy to cross train herd staff (conventional vs robotic)
High bacteria count event trouble shooting on your own to resolve
Regulatory standards are set higher for robots
Pleasant surprises:
Ease to train older cows
Cow behavior is calmer – visitors even notice, no herding
Nice comfortable barn to work in
Breeding program emphasizes RTP
3X feeding year around
Industry needs:
Large pens with multiple milking stations
Lower cost barns
University research and education/training of students
Advice to dairymen interested in robotic milking:
Visit as many farms as you can
Learn the characteristics of each company’s robot
Look at your herd, how many cows would not attach well
Send your herdsman to another robot farm for a week