Milking Robot Uses Ethernet for Data

The Astronaut A3 Milking Robot Incorporates a Variety of Features, a Robotic Arm, The 4Effect Pulsation System, The MQC-C Sensor System, X-Link and the Milking Box.

Dutch company Lely Industries’ Astronaut robotic milking system uses sensor technologies and integrated data management to create a total dairy farm management solution. The A3 model employs Ethernet to optimize data communication. Because a farmer can’t turn off a cow’s milk production, reliability is a key issue.

“Our robots work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and with our first implementation of Ethernet networking in our Astronaut system, we wanted to have the highest levels of reliability,” says Sander J.P. van Leeuwen, product specialist, robotic milking systems, at Lely, in Maasslius, the Netherlands. “Furthermore, it’s unmanaged, so we chose switches for harsh environment applications.”

 

Non-Stop Production
Because a farmer cannot turn off a cow’s milk production, the Astronaut milking robot is equipped for reliability.
Westermo’s SDW 550 Ethernet switches are used for real-time data communication management between the peripherals and the central supervision PC, where information about the cows, milking, milk quality, feed-take and machine setup is stored. The peripherals can include a direction system, which sends the cows to a paddock when they don’t need to be milked or to a separate area for veterinary checks; a cleaning system, which is used for hygiene and food regulations; a feeding system, which allocates feed to the cows; and an alarm system, which alerts the dairy farm manager of problems occurring with the cow or the robot that require immediate attention.

When a cow enters the milking robot, an identification system recognizes the cow through its responder and retrieves data from the database to determine if the cow is due to be milked. A predetermined ration of concentrates then is allocated to the animal. Subsequently, brushes ensure thorough cleaning of the cow’s teats, as well as udder bottom, and the teat cups are attached. Teat positions are established by the TDS sensor, which produces a rapid and accurate three-layer scan of the animal’s udder. Stimulation of the teats and udder during the cleaning process initiates and accelerates the onset of the milk flow.

The Astronaut A3 milking robot incorporates a variety of features. A robotic arm, capable of withstanding a cow’s weight if stepped on, conveys the teat cups underneath the cow so as not to upset the animal. The 4effect pulsation system, which expedites the milking process, allows regulation of each teat. The MQC-C sensor system, which establishes cell counts and checks milk color, conductivity and flow, can detect and separate milk containing blood. X-Link is an ergonomically designed interface display with touchscreen control that allows on-machine data management. The milking box includes a rubber weighing floor equipped with sensors for determining the cow’s position and an open-air gate, so cows don’t feel separated from the herd, which puts them more at ease during milking.

At the end of the milking, every robot asks the PC if it is allowed to pump the milk to the main milk tank. Sometimes the milk has to be transferred to an external bucket because the cow had antibiotics or is producing colostrum, the first milk it produces for a calf. This decision and the corresponding pumping have to be processed quickly to allow the next cow to be milked.

All data related to each milking also is processed in real time, including information on milk quality, and are registered in the T4C management system, making it is possible to access and manage the data of each individual cow from any location.

A cow is free to visit the robot when it chooses and as often as it likes, resulting in yield increases of up to 20%.

 

Watch a video demonstration of how the machine works. Lely's Astronaut A3 robotic milking system uses sensor technologies and integrated data management to create a total dairy farm management solution.
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