Robotic Teat Dip Arms Cut Parlor Labor in Half
If you can’t go to robotic milking all the way, consider going half way.
That’s the approach Dave, Dale and Randy Styer took on their 60-stall rotary parlor, installing robotic teat dipping arms to apply both pre- and post-dip in July 2017. The brothers, who milk 2,000 cows near Menomonie in northwest Wisconsin, were able to eliminate half their parlor labor.
Now, instead of four people in the parlor to pre-dip, wipe/dry, attach and post-dip, they need just two people per milking shift. (Note: They still employ to two cow pushers per shift to move cows to the parlor and clean stalls.)
As cows present themselves after stepping onto the rotary, the robotic teat dipping arm, a Teatwand 400 automatic teat sprayer manufactured by Onfarm Solutions, Ltd., from New Zealand, sprays 18 ml of a peroxide IBA pre-dip onto teats. After about 30 seconds of kill time, the first milker dries teats and cleans teat ends. A second worker than immediately attaches the milker unit.
To aid milk let down, the DeLaval milker units are dual phase, and start off in a massage phase of 65:35 milk-to-rest ratio. After 60 seconds or if milk flow reaches 2 lb/minute, the units reverse to milk phase of 35:65.
The carousel runs at about 8 minutes per rotation. As cows near the end of the rotation, a second automatic teat sprayer applies another 18 ml of one-half percent iodine post-dip.
“Our cell counts are staying at 75,000 to 80,000 cells/mL,” says Dave Styer, who manages the dairy operation. “And our new infection rate is about 4%. We only have four to six cows with [clinical] mastitis at any one time.”
The automatic teat sprayers use slightly more total dip volume, but are providing better coverage than when pre- and post-dipping was done manually. “One of the things we found with the milkers doing the dipping was that we weren’t getting the coverage that we thought we were. After taking pictures, we found that the front teats especially weren’t always being covered,” he says.
The units are about $25,000 t $30,000 each, and are maintained by Styers’ IBA service technician. About the only problem they’ve had is when a sprayer unit’s electric eye is bumped out of position, he says.
The benefits are two-fold: 1) Complete coverage of teat ends with dip each and every milking. 2) The elimination of two milkers in the parlor each shift, and six fewer milkers needed per day.
The dynamics of two-person teams also seem to work better. “Two people can get along pretty well,” says Dave. “If you add a third and fourth person, the team doesn’t seem to work together as well.”
To watch a video of the Teatwand in action, click here.