With its conversion from a rotary milking parlor to an automated system with 16 Gea DairyRobot R9500 milking robots, Agrar Cottbus West in Krieschow, Germany, has installed Gea’s largest automated milking system in Europe to date.
According to Gea, six central supply units, each with three robots, will be used to milk up to 800 cows. During the construction of the new system, the company not only wanted to focus on efficiency, reduced water, and energy consumption and maximum milk quality but also animal welfare. Daylight and fresh air are continuously supplied through curtains and sectional gates with large light openings, creating the best conditions for dairy cows and a pleasant barn climate year-round. Likewise, optimal temperatures in the working area and protection of the milk-carrying elements is ensured due to underfloor heating powered by a heat recovery system from the farm’s biogas plant.
Some time ago, having reached its limitations when the herd reached 600, the previous rotary milking parlor at Agrar needed replacing, said Gea. Adding to the situation were increased infection rates, coupled with the system’s overall inefficiency. For managing director Koen Veldkamp, this represented an opportunity to move to a new, future-proof solution.
Environmentally sound management
Gea mentioned that as Agrar Cottbus West’s medium-term plan was to increase its herd to 800 cows, the system and barn had to be planned and sized accordingly. For a herd of this size, an automated milking system was the only option for Veldkamp. Having had positive experiences with the Gea MIone milking robot in the past, the company selected the Gea DairyRobot R9500 for the new facility. Agrar worked closely with Gea and local Gea specialist Duräumat-Agrotec Agrartechnik to develop a turnkey automated milking system. They sourced a floor made from prefabricated concrete bases – including joints, connectors, and openings – all supplied ready for installation. According to the press release, this enabled the team to complete the project and begin operations with just six months of pure construction time.
Three boxes are connected to each of the six supply units. The company is currently using 16 of these, and more can be added easily when required. This means less equipment, lower water and power consumption, fewer maintenance processes, and lower investment than other box systems. It also requires less personnel and occupies less of their time as the system, even one of this size, can be operated by just two people, claimed Gea.
Milk quality and animal welfare
Agrar Cottbus West also benefits from many other milk quality and animal welfare benefits of the DairyRobot R9500. Gea’s ‘In-Liner Everything’ principle ensures maximum hygiene throughout the milking process as everything from attachment to cleaning, stimulation, and to the point of removal – including dipping that happens within the teat cup.
Gea also added that to ensure the maximum spaciousness of the existing site for the animals, pre- and post-selection systems were left out of the design. “With the herd management system, free-flow cow traffic works brilliantly, and the cows enjoy the consistent, self-determined processes, including just after calving. The system automatically redirects the calf milk so that neither worker nor animal have to adapt their routines,” explains Veldkamp.
“How well the new system is working is clear from the first quarter figures. First class milking hygiene, animal-friendly processes and intelligent herd management have delivered an increase in both milk yield and quality. The cell and germ counts have dropped significantly – even in half in some cases,” claims Gea.
The innovative solution, according to Gea, comprising leading robotic milking technology, time-saving installation, and the outstanding service provided by Gea specialist Duräumat-Agrotec Agrartechnik enables sustainable operation with healthy, vital cows. For Koen Veldkamp, this means now having more time to invest in the management of his company. Asked how he felt about the overall process and results – “We are completely satisfied,” he says.