Largest robotic milking research site in North America launched

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The Dairy Education and Research Center at the University of British Columbia is poised to become the largest robotic milking research center in North America with the addition of six GEA DairyRobot R9500 box robots. Thanks to a new partnership between GEA and UBC, the doors will open to research opportunities, attracting more students and offering new educational experiences.

The UBC Dairy Center is recognized as a leader in research on the welfare and behavior of dairy cattle, reproduction and nutrient recovery, attracting students from around the world. GEA is one of the world’s largest suppliers of systems for the food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries.

“Robots provide a huge amount of data and we are only just beginning to understand and use it in the day-to-day management of cows,” says Stuart Marshall, business development manager for GEA AMS.

The idea to switch to robotic milking came about three years ago when the University was looking to achieve phosphorus sustainability, meet workforce challenges, and modernize its 20-year-old milking parlor. years. UBC worked with GEA and its local GEA dealer, Pacific Dairy Center, to plan a layout to meet their research needs with the goal of starting milking this winter.

“Becoming a research farm that treats 100% of our herd with robots is important because it is representative of dairy farms adapting to robotics around the world,” says Nelson Dinn, director of business operations at UBC. “We want to position the UBC Dairy Center as a technology hub at the forefront of dairy cattle research on a global scale. “

Image courtesy of the University of British Columbia

The modernization project will have a flexible design integrating a total of six GEA robots in two existing research barns, housing around 250 lactating cows, as well as a training robot. The six-row main barn is configured in quadrants, making it easy to integrate a robot into each pen. UBC will add two more robots to its second barn – a four-row barn with flywheel feed and individual feed boxes to measure inputs on one side.

“Experimental design was a priority in our planning,” says Ronaldo Cerri, director of UBC and associate professor of dairy cattle reproduction. “As a research institution, it is important to have several individual robotic pens for replication in order to strengthen our research projects. “

Research for the real world

“By investing in robotic milking, one of our goals is to maintain the current total milk production by increasing milk production per cow while reducing the overall herd size,” says Dinn. “This means we can reduce water use over time, be more efficient at manure management, and explore nutrient extraction. …

“We’re a research farm, but we’re also a commercial farm and we have to be financially viable – that keeps us honest in the eyes of the dairy farmer. “

In addition to learning and sharing within the dairy industry, educating the public is also a goal for the university. They look forward to bringing new attention and new experiences to the thousands of people who visit the Dairy Center each year for farm tours.

“The possibilities are endless when it comes to studying animal welfare, cow longevity and increased efficiency,” says Cerri. “We would like to take what we have learned from conventional milking and expand our knowledge using the new data we can get from automated milking systems. We don’t have all the research ideas in mind today, but with a world class facility using modern milking technology, we will continue to attract the best students and with the best students, great ideas.

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