Automated Milking Systems Slowing Farm Consolidation
Adoption Of Robotic Elements In Milk Production Expected To Grow 20 To 30 Percent Annually
DENVER (March 26, 2018) — Various forms of robotic milking are helping sustain small to medium sized dairy farms amid broader industry consolidation and improving labor efficiency for some larger operations according to a new report from CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange Division.
Dairy robots, also referred to as automated milking systems, take a variety of forms. From “box” style units to robotic components on rotary style milking parlors, they all provide an alternative to traditional dairy labor, which has become more expensive and harder to find in many regions of the U.S.
“Labor and finance are two of the most important issues when large farms are considering dairy robotics, but when I spoke to smaller-scale producers, the primary drivers of adopting this technology were around quality of life,” said Ben Laine, senior analyst with CoBank. “However, the future growth of this technology and possible broader adoption will be centered on labor costs, milk production per robot, and proximity to dealers and service technicians.”
A single box style unit can cost around $200,000 without housing, and the target production for one unit is 4,500 pounds of milk per day.
“As the technology improves and labor costs increase, we will see the tradeoffs continue to shift in favor of robotics,” said Laine. “But, there is still plenty of uncertainty around useful life of the units and milk production efficiency that will give many producers pause.”
CoBank is a $129 billion cooperative bank serving vital industries across rural America. The bank provides loans, leases, export financing and other financial services to agribusinesses and rural power, water and communications providers in all 50 states. The bank also provides wholesale loans and other financial services to affiliated Farm Credit associations serving more than 70,000 farmers, ranchers and other rural borrowers in 23 states around the country.
CoBank is a member of the Farm Credit System, a nationwide network of banks and retail lending associations chartered to support the borrowing needs of U.S. agriculture, rural infrastructure and rural communities. Headquartered outside Denver, Colorado, CoBank serves customers from regional banking centers across the U.S. and also maintains an international representative office in Singapore.