|Article by Evan Lentz
On October 26, 2017, UConn Extension and CT Farm Risk Management program teamed up to host the Robotic Milking Conference at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, CT. The conference program boasted an impressive lineup of farmers, researchers, and industry professionals. All seemed to advocate highly for the incorporation of the technology into the dairy industry. The event was attended by a range of local CT dairy farmers, most of whom who have already employed the technology in their dairy farming operations.
Robotic milking machines are hardly a novel technology, being commercially available since the early 1990’s. Since then, the technology has evolved to include a range of benefits to both the farmers and cows alike. The robotic milking machines are voluntary meaning that the cows only get milked when they are ready. Upon entering the system cows are weighed and the teats are cleaned. The systems utilize a quarter-milking strategy, allowing for each teat to be milked individually. After the milk has been extracted cows return to the herd.
|Much data is provided during the milking process that gives farmers a better idea on the health of the cows as well as the quality of milk collected. This information allows farmers to make more informed decisions about the herd and provides for the early detection of health problems. Measurements such as somatic cell count, total plate count, and milk fat percentage determine the quality of milk. Farms which have adopted the use of robotic milking machines tend to see an increase in both somatic and total plate count within the first year. This is especially important for larger farms where somatic cell count tends to be lower than in smaller operations.
As times change, it is important for businesses to evolve. Robotic milking machines are playing an integral role in the evolution of this industry. The availability of reliable labor in agriculture is becoming incredibly pressing issue. This technology provides for the adaptation to a changing environment and allows farmers to spend their time doing more important things such as marketing and developing plans for the ever-growing agrotourism industry. For more information on this technology please visit the UConn Extension or CT Farm Risk Management website.
By Bernard Dzielinski
President, Fairfield County Extension Council
Hoard’s Dairyman recently provided a comprehensive review of total milk production in the United States. The data is summarized in the report by region.
Milk production in 2015 was a new record of 208.6 billion pounds, a modest gain of 1.3 percent. The story of the Northeast, including Connecticut, is that it added 500 million pounds for a 1.7 percent increase in 2015 over production in 2014. The west region had a major decline in milk production due to the California drought.
Statistic highlights for 2015 include that Connecticut dairy farmers lead the dairy farmers in the six New England states in milk production per cow at 20,842 pounds. This record is achieved with 120 dairies and average herd size of 158 cows (Vermont is second at 155 cows per herd). Production per cow beats Vermont by 3 percent. Connecticut dairy farmers also lead in average total milk production per herd at 3,299,983 pounds, beating Vermont by 5 percent.
Connecticut dairy farmers achieved these impressive records with the largest herd size in New England because our farmers are willing to invest and increase herd sizes to produce that recent record of 396 million pounds of milk in 2015. Innovative practices and cow comfort allows our dairy farmers to maximize efficiency. The dairy farmers confidence comes about from support the State of Connecticut provides through the safety net payments in the dairy support fund, which is part of the Community Investment Act.
The Community Investment Act was signed into law in 2005, and the dairy support program began in 2009. It counterbalances the drastic price swings of national milk pricing. According to a study led by UConn and Farm Credit East, dairy production and processing has a $1.3 billion economic impact statewide, and generates 4,286 jobs. As dairy farms continue to thrive, the economic benefits to Connecticut will also grow.