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Automation delivers greater freedom for cows and farmers

Automation delivers greater freedom for cows and farmers

The combination of cartesian robotics with pneumatics technology has delivered an innovative automated milking technology that offers benefits to dairy cows and farmers alike.

Like many other industries, dairy farming is under increasing pressure to become more efficient and more productive. A company at the forefront of automated milking systems, Fullwood Packo has partnered with automation specialist Festo to deliver the flexibility and performance required in the modern dairy industry.

The company’s latest and smartest M²erlin robot provides farmers with a robust system for voluntary milking cows. Using the automated, voluntary method, cows are free to walk into one of the milking robots' feeding stations at any point of the day. Once inside, each cow is identified, and the milking head is moved into position guided by the vision system to be fixed to the teats.

M²erlin is developed around improving milk quality and cow wellbeing. Farmers can achieve increased efficiency and maximise productivity with each robot able to milk up to 70 cows per day. It offers flexibility in configuration, so farmers can choose to allow their herd completely unrestricted movement, or use directed traffic options to control feeding and milking parameters.

The ability for cows to choose when they are ready to be milked positively improves milk quality and yield. Automation further allows farmers to collect data about yield rates and quality, as well as the general health of each cow. Says managing director Andrew Dodwell: “Herd management software gives farmers complete digital control over the milking, feeding, health and fertility of their herd. So, not only can an automated milking system like M²erlin enable farmers to use their time more efficiently and maintain a better work/life balance, it also provides a wealth of information about productivity and cow welfare.”

Festo supplies complete cartesian robot assemblies, and pneumatic and controls kits for each M²erlin robot. These assemblies and kits mean that Fullwood Packo receives everything it needs for rapid incorporation into the M2erlin as a complete package. Festo supported Fullwood Packo with the original cartesian robot design – optimised for use in the demanding environment and application of the milking parlour. 

This continues with ongoing software programming support and upgrades. It means that Festo can apply its automation expertise in ensuring the build quality, reliability and performance of the critical parts on which the automated milking system depends. This includes adherence to the strict hygiene standards and harsh washdown regimes associated with food production.

Swapnil Khedekar, head of technical services at Festo UK, says: “We have developed a close outsourcing partnership with Fullwood Packo over a long period of time. Our complete assemblies and kits drastically reduce the need for multiple component order numbers and significantly reduce time in purchasing and logistics. The pre-assembled robots are built and tested by Festo automation experts and delivered on a ‘just in time’ basis using the Festo production capability – so all Fullwood Packo needs to do is connect them into their system on arrival.”

By optimising the ordering process and developing pre-assembled automation solutions, Festo is providing ongoing support to Fullwood Packo in its ambitions to improve the lives of dairy cows and their farmers.

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