The first robotic feed pusher in New Zealand to also refresh and remix feed has been installed on a dairy farm in the South Island, with the farm already reporting a promising milk production increase and significant labour savings.
DeLaval's OptiDuo remixes and repositions supplementary feed in barns and on feed pads to ensure cows have constant access to refreshed feed.
The robot can be programmed to position and mix feed around the clock, to increase feed intake and reduce waste.
"We're not people who invest in new technology just for the sake of it," says Bruce Eade, who farms pedigree Ayrshires and Holstein Friesians near Gore.
"We had been pushing feed out with a tractor but, when we started autumn calving and winter milking, we could justify buying a robot to give the cows automated access to more palatable feed throughout the day and night."
The farm had previously been using a tractor-mounted tyre to push feed to the winter milking herd, which required a trip to the barn every night after 9pm.
The OptiDuo robot works 24/7 and features a twin-spiralled rotating auger that lifts, mixes, and aerates the feed while repositioning feed closer to the fence.
It automatically handles varying amounts and types of feed, for example total mixed rations, silage, hay and fresh grass.
"I've just added an extra run, so the cows are now getting well-mixed feed seven times in 24 hours," Eade says.
"We've already seen an increase of nearly 1 litre per cow per day in milk production at a time when this is the only thing that's changed on the farm.
It's also nice to know that I don't have to pull my boots back on after dinner and head back down to the barn late at night," Eade says.
The robot runs along an induction line and can be easily programmed to alter feed times and frequency.
"You can actually smell the freshness of the feed when you walk in the barn. The smell completely changes when the feed is properly aerated," DeLaval's Katrina Lee says.
"We're seeing real interest in this technology from dairy goat farmers too.
"Automated feed mixing and repositioning helps maximise dry matter intake, minimise feed sorting, and allows cows more time for lying down and ruminating."
The OptiDuo has been designed with simple maintenance in mind; no need for a grease gun and there are few parts requiring service.
"Animal welfare, farm profitability, work efficiency and food safety are challenges that farmers around the globe face with increasing pressure," Justin Thompson from DeLaval Oceania says.
"The OptiDuo is helping re-invent the way we give cows access to nutrition, as part of a suite of robotic technology that allows farmers to spend much more time on other parts of their business."
For more details about the OptiDuo robot, visit www.delaval.com