Mike and Sue McCloskey have been building the robotic facility on their Fair Oaks dairy for well over a year. The cows were first milked with robots in April.
While they are still not sure if they will convert all of their farms to robots, last week they hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony, with DeLaval, for a robotic experience at the visitor’s center at Fair Oaks Farms.
The visitor’s center experience, which DeLaval helped fund, includes more than just a demonstration. In fact, it was designed by an engineer who formerly worked for Disney and calls himself an inspirer. In the theatre room there are videos, voice overs, animation, a light show and more to help visitors understand how the robots work.
The building is being called the "Robotic Dairy." It's made up of the DeLaval robotics downstairs where the cows are milked. Then windows upstairs allow visitors to see cattle at all angles. There are also cameras and screens to see the robots in action.
“I think the most important thing is that we have we have people that are working together around animals and super high technology and to have that trilogy of high technology, animals and people,” says Joakim Rosengren, CEO of DeLaval. “It takes a good cooperation and it takes a lot of value sharing to achieve that and that's what I think we are doing with Fair Oaks.”
DeLaval helped fund the visitors center and Rosengren says the company is “very happy” with how it turned out.
The cows are being milked with new robots from DeLaval called the VMS v300.
“Now this is a new technology that's been brought into farm the environment with an excellent vision technology, excellent milk analysis, analysis equipment in it, and that increases capacity and takes care of the cows in a wonderful way,” Rosengren says. “We've been doing that now for a year and a half. So, it's in all countries. The biggest market for robotic making is still in Europe. But America is really catching up and is growing very fast.”
Mike McCloskey says the robots at Fair Oaks represent a “big change” in the industry.
“This is a big, big change for us to go from conventional dairy farming on great rotary [parlors] that have worked extremely well, to take another step forward. This robotic automation is just so important for our future,” he says. “You can look at these cows, how content they are, how smooth everything works, they really do things on their own time. From an owner’s point of view, we know that things are getting done exactly how we want to get them done all the time.”
The robotic experience at Fair Oaks Farms will be open to the public in late winter/early spring.