The Lely Juno
Robotics has hit the dairy industry hard in the last few years and the most popular product is the robotic milking machine which I explain in my article A New Era of Farming http://unlockyourmind.hubpages.com/hub/A-New-Era-of-Farming.
In this article I want to take the time to explain some other robotic tools being applied to dairy farms, mainly a handy little machine called the Juno. This robotic machine has one task and one task only and that is to keep feed pushed up to the cows. Now to a lot of people this seems pretty stupid to pay all that money for a robot that only pushes up feed. Well hopefully by the end of this article you will have a better understanding on how this machine works and why this has a huge impact on dairy farms.
The Dairy Cow
To understand why keeping feed pushed up is a big deal we need to understand how a dairy cow works. A dairy cow is a very interesting and unique animal and she have very specific nutritional needs that have to be met in order for her to live and keep producing milk. When a dairy cow calves she needs a tremendous amount of energy to keep herself living and to produce milk for her calf. 90% of the time a cow is physically not able to consume enough energy to meet these needs so the cow will pull fat from her reserves to make up for the deficit. The goal of the farmer is to keep this to a minimum so she doesn't fall ill and there are a number of problems that arise when a cow gets to negative on her energy balance. But as her body recovers from the birth she will regain her fat deposits and put her energy into living and the rest goes to making milk. The cow needs to consume dry matter to keep her producing milk. The more dry matter she consumes means she can put more energy into making milk.
Dairy cows are fed a TMR or a total mixed ration which contains everything a cow needs to live and produce milk. The idea is to get the ingredients mixed evenly so every mouthful has the same nutrients. Well in a perfect world this works great, but cows love to sort. Which means they will pick out and eat all the sweet palatable ingredients and leave out the not so palatable but important other ingredients. So farmers like to push the feed up because they want to limit sorting as much as possible.
Dairy farmers are trying to be as efficient as possible by trying to get the most milk out of the cows they have. With the growing population this is essential because we only have so much space available to expand in cow numbers so we need to get the extra milk somehow and if we can get more out of each cow this helps with problem.
Available Feed 24/7
Now the point of the Lely juno is to keep feed pushed up and available to the cows all the time. Now with a cost of about $15,000 people might think its crazy to pay that kind of money for a machine to push up feed. Well its not so crazy when you think about it. If feed is constantly being pushed up the cows will be much more inclined to eat. If they eat more then they can put more energy into making milk. So really you should be looking at how much money this machine can make you. Typically with a juno installed a dairy farm can look at about a 2-5 pound milk increase per cow. That's pretty significant and easily offsets the cost and then some. But that's not the only benefit your looking at. For larger farms that dedicate a skid loader for only feed pushing can save a lot of money by buying a juno vs. a new skid loader and you don't have to pay anyone to operate it. But your also saving fuel cost by not having to run the skid loader constantly.
So overall when you look at the benefits of this machine the cost gets justified easily because once it pays itself off it then going to make you profit by the increase milk production alone.
How it Works
The Lely juno is actually a very simple machine with a circuit board, battery, two electric motors, and a big concrete block.
This machine is programmed right on the farm so the routes are customized to the farm. The machine is able to follow those route by two different ways. First it monitors the amount of wheel rotations so it know how far it went how and how far it needs to go. Second when it is pushing feed it uses an ultra sound sensor to tell it how far it is away from the feed rail or headlocks. Each route can be programmed at a different distance away from the feed fence. Typically the routes start the furthest away right after feeding, then it works its way closer and closer to the feed fence. After each route the machine will dock itself at its charger until the next programmed time path. A 2 to 3 hour window will be left open for feeding while to juno will remained docked at its charger. If for any reason the juno is pushing feed when you need to deliver feed or is just simply in the way for something it can be stopped and manually driven back to is charging station and the routes can be resumed at any time.
Now if your thinking that a skid loader is useful for a whole multitude of things and that its cheaper to use that to push up feed every hour instead; your right. But would you be pushing up every hour even through the night? This is where its important because cows like to eat at night just as much as during the day. So can you really justify the labor to push feed with a skid loader every hour even through the night? Most farmers would agree that the overnight pushing is what is lacking and that is where the Lely juno excels.
But if you have any other questions or concerns please comment below and I will be glad to answer them.