The Economic Benefits Of Robotic Milking Systems

Many dairy farms worldwide use robotic milking systems including British farms that use British dairying to make their operations more efficient. These automatic systems allow them to manage and grow their business without having to hire additional workers.

What Makes Robotic Systems So Profitable?

There are several factors that contribute to improving the productivity of a dairy farm using an RMS system. The milk production per cow and the lower labour costs are only two of these factors that have a direct influence on the profitability of a dairy farm. The drawbacks, though, is the relatively high capital investment. A robot that can milk between 50 and 70 cows costs between $150,000 and $200,000. If you take a look at historical data, you’ll probably find out that the profitability of milking robots is lower than the one of conventional milking systems. Nevertheless, some of the most recent technology advances in robotic technology, the better management skills of today’s farmers, as well as the increasing labour costs may make these results obsolete.

Labour Efficiency

According to the USDA, livestock workers saw their wages increase by 3 percent in 2014 and 4 percent in 2015. Reported labour savings vary from zero up to almost 30 percent with the use of RMS. The differences in barn design can explain such a high variation. According to Farm Management Records, Upper Midwest farms using robotic milking systems averaged 2.2 million lb milk per worker, while farms using parlour milking averaged only 1.5 million lb.

The future availability of workers is another factor that may influence the decision of investing in a robotic milking system. A 2014 survey revealed that immigrant labour accounted for 51 percent of all cow milking labour. If less foreign workers are available, the future availability of labour for milking cows could significantly decrease.

Switching To Robots Changes The Milk Production

The first thing to keep in mind when considering to implement a robotic milking system is that the milking frequency will change as a result of this implementation. According to experts, robotic herds score 5% – 10% production increases by comparison with milking 2X, but they record a decrease of 5% – 10% by comparison with milking 3X. Our survey was based on a 2.9 average milking frequency, the full range being 2.4 to 3.2. You can obtain the best efficiency by choosing a high milking frequency in early lactation and a lower one in later lactation. Here are the main factors that influence cow milking frequency:

Number of cows per robotic unit
Milking permissions settings
Quality and palatability of the food
Robot idle time
Cow fetching policies
Barn design (when it comes to grazing herds, the walking distance to the barn can make a big difference)

A Comparison Of RMS With Conventional Parlour Milking Systems

Researchers compared the economic results of Dutch farms using RMS with conventional farms milking 2X. The conventional farms were more profitable, due to the high cost of the RMS. However, labour needs were almost 30% lower on the RMS farms, resulting in higher milk production and income per worker. The conclusion of this research was that investment in RMS leads to higher productivity and decreased labour needs.

Maximising Milk Per Robot

The maximisation of the profit is a direct result of the maximisation of the daily milk per robot. For example, a four robot system can lead to an increase of the net annual income of over $4,000 for every 500 lb daily milk increase per robot. These calculations took into consideration a 20-tear time frame and a 2% annual wage inflation. The higher the number of cows per robot, the better.

The reduced box time per cow and the setting of sound strategies of getting the right cows milked at the right times could also improve productivity.