U.S. robotic milker sales are on pace this year, despite the drought, escalating feed prices and tight milk/feed margins, says Peter Langebeeke, president of Lely North America.
Lely introduced its North American robotic assembly plant in Pella, Iowa, this past March.
"We’re still seeing growth in the United States," says Langebeeke. "Our market is sensitive to the economy, but it seems that in good years and bad, our better dairy farmers are able to adjust."
Langebeeke concedes that robotic milker units being sold this year might not have all the bells and whistles as in previous years. But many customers are moving forward with their installations despite difficult margins.
"We’re seeing better than expected sales results in Canada," says Langebeeke. "Over the last 18 months in the Canadian market, we’re almost seeing the same pace of sales as in Western Europe."
In Western Europe, 15% to 20% of the market is now robotic milkers. In Holland, it’s 25% to 30%, with 50% to 75% of new installations robots.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of robotic milking. Lely’s latest entry in the market Lely Astronaut A4 unit which feature’s "I-flow" milking. Introduced last year, cows enter in a straight line parallel to the milker unit. When the cow exits, the feed bowl slides into the unit, allowing the cow to exit by simply walking forward.
This straight forward motion saves several seconds per cow per milking, increasing cow flow16 to 18%. "Seconds count," says Langebeeke. So the I-flow concept allows each cow to be milked more frequently (2.8X/day versus 3.2X) or to milk more cows. In either case, the unit’s cost is spread over more pounds of milk per day, per month and per year.
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