Feed-Pushing Robot Coming soon to a feed alley near you

May 15, 2009 07:00 PM

The three-wheeled, 1,265-lb. Juno can be programmed to push up feed over 16 routes—in different buildings.
If you're tired of paying labor to push up feed three or more times a day, Juno, a little red robot now in development by Lely, might just be your thing.

Actually, Juno isn't so little, weighing in at 1,265 lb. and with enough power to push up feed piles 30" in height. And the beauty of it is, Juno can be programmed to push up feed any number of times, day or night.

The unit was first requested by Dutch dairy producers. "Farmers asked us to develop a tool that was able to push feed toward the cows several times per day,” says Karel van den Berg of Lely. The robot will retail for about $16,000 in the U.S.

Van den Berg estimates Juno will save 1½ hours of labor/cow/year if feed is pushed up eight times daily. With a few hundred cows, that adds up. Plus, feed intakes improve 3% to 4% with more frequent push-ups, resulting in more milk production. Combined with labor savings, van den Berg estimates improved profitability of $95/cow/year.

The robot finds its way by following the metal feed fence. The fence can consist of a single horizontal pipe 25" to 45" off the floor, or vertical pipes such as headlocks up to 32" apart. One robot can be programmed for 16 different routes—in different buildings.

The producer must walk with the robot the first time to program the route into its memory. The producer also programs in the distance between the robot and the feedline, which is then controlled by an ultrasound sensor.

A spinning ring of flexible material at its base sweeps the feed to the robot's left side. An upper ring of polished steel allows forage to pass.

The unit has a front castor wheel for easy turning and two rear-drive wheels. Each rear wheel is powered by its own motor, which runs off a 12-volt battery. Annual electrical use is about 4.2 kw/cow/year pushing feed eight times/day.

The robot has a circular, flexible bumper with a collision detector. Anytime the bumper encounters an object, the robot stops.

After completing its route, the unit returns to its station to recharge for the next use. A sensor locates the charger by detecting a metal strip in the floor in front of the station.

Mathe van den Bosch milks 170 cows with four Lely robots. Along his 330' feed alley, a Juno robot pushes up feed four different ways depending on production group level and dry cows. "Pushing the feed more frequently stimulates intake,” he says. "The
robot has time enough to do the job more frequently for the higher production groups.

"With our tractor scraper, it was not possible to push the feed as often as it should have been done. The Juno pushes the feed at 11:30 at night and again at 3 in the morning,” says van den Bosch. He estimates that Juno stimulates cows to increase their intakes by 3% to 5%, and with two-thirds less waste.

Bonus content:

Informational video of Juno feed pusher

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