Innovators and first followers are a special breed we should all celebrate

Being a dairy farmer can be extraordinarily rewarding but there is no denying its 24/7 and you just can’t turn the cows off and shut up shop and go on holiday whenever you want to.

So just imagine if a technology came along that milked the cows for you.

Well it has – bring on the robots courtesy of the highly innovative team at Future Dairy at Sydney University

Cows that milk themselves voluntarily with the help of robots is only one example of the many technologies that are available to our dairy farmers. At the moment there are 34 robotic milking farms in Australia (with at least another 8 being installed).

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Robotic Rotary Dairy

This represents a total of 135 robots milking around 9,100 cows, producing almost 50 million litres of milk per year. A small proportion of the Australian dairy industry (9.2 billion litres), but definitely growing in interest and adoption.

The average Automatic Milking System (AMS) farm has 268 cows milked through 4 robots (range of 110 and 2 robots to 550 and 8 robots).

These AMS installations cover every commercially available type in Australia (two brands offering single box robots, two brands offering multi box robots and one brand offering the robotic rotary).

The AMS operate across a range of farming system types from grazing with some supplementary grain feeding (82% of farms) to farms where all the cows are housed (12% of farms).

Ciows supplementary feeding

Cows live the luxury life with access to supplementary feed under shelter

Every dairy state in Australia has farmers that are currently operating with AMS and farmer discussion groups where they can share their trials and tribulations and success stories have been established in Victoria and Tasmania as well as the NSW Dairy Innovation Group which discusses all things technology and innovation.

There is no denying the gutsy early adopter farmers should be applauded as new technology invariably comes at a large capital cost with a high new technology frustration cost and a small group of vocal detractors sitting in the wings waiting with glee for you to go broke.

Different farmers adopt technologies for different reasons. So it’s imperative that farmers achieve the expectations behind the technology adoption and there is no denying expectations need to be the right ones too!! Check out the Future Dairy’s Case Studies.

Imagine how excited our industry is to hear the Future Dairy team is in the running for Australia’s most prestigious science accolade The Eureka Prize

Innovators and first followers are a special breed we should all celebrate – the bright minds who wake up every day with big ideas to change the way we live, work and play and the brave people who the test the waters and help the innovators get it right for the rest of us.

Change is hard

I must admit when I played a big role in the management decisions at Clover Hill there were so many times we were tempted to get on board with some of these new technology breakthroughs that were thwarted by lack of funds, lack of room, lack of IT knowledge ad infinitum but never a lack of desire to get the best outcomes for our cows, our team,our business and the land we have stewardship of

Innovators and Early Adopters, both work hand-in-hand to bring new technology into use. Innovators are the great thinkers in the realm of technology; they create the latest and greatest, cutting edge technology, while Early Adopters can see what the Innovators have created, and find the practical application of the new technology and begin using the Innovators’ creations and applying their ideas.

I sit in the stands and watch with fascination and loudly cheer on all the early technology adopter farmers in our dairy industry.

You are a gutsy bunch of people and you deserve every success and you couldn’t have a better support network than the team at Future Dairy

Also hearty congratulations to Professor Snow Barlow another legend in agriculture for his selection as a Eureka Prize finalist

Thanks to Dr Nico Lyons for his assistance with the data in this article

Interesting article How Robotics is Transforming 21st Century Farming