Our next generation of robotic milking technology.
The use of a single pelleted feed being fed through an AMS is driven by ease of dispensing it in the robot. While feeding pelleted feeds has been demonstrated to be an effective management strategy, the pellets can cost $340, or more, per ton. There is interest from dairy farmers in finding ways to improve income over feed costs by utilizing alternative feeds that can be fed through AMS. High moisture corn (HMC) is one alternative; when harvested, stored, and managed correctly it has many desirable qualities. It is palatable, nutritious, available, and according to Penn State Extension research, a typical cost of production on Pennsylvania farms is approximately $60 per ton, making it more affordable than pelleted feed. The biggest challenge of feeding HMC through most AMS is ensuring that it is dispensed evenly and does not bridge or clog the feeder.
The cost of a pellet ranges from $0.15 to $0.25 per lb. The average amount pellet of a robot farm is 10lbs / cow average. Let’s put some monthly expense to these costs for different size dairies:
Penn State University has done a study looking at more than 100 farms cost of production. In comparison to the cost above, High Moisture Shelled Corn averages $.03/lb.
If that same dairy was able to drive cows to the robot with high moisture shelled corn the cost to the dairy would be $.03/lb x 10lbs average x 30.5 days x number cows.
Homegrown starch source cows will readily consume and highly digestible. Feeding alone or with a protein source, cow traffic should be maintained and higher levels of feed can be fed to supply the needs of the top-producing cows.
More difficult to process and handle than dry corn, high-moisture corn may have trouble flowing through some feed systems and must be processed and fed regularly to avoid heating and spoilage. Producers may need a different level of processing for feed in the PMR fed at the feedbunk and the high-moisture corn fed in the robot.
When I was growing up, my family milked our cows in a in a tie stall barn. Our cows were fed a balanced partial mixed ration of corn silage, alfalfa haylage, and roasted soybeans. My dad had a feed cart (un powered – no automation) that had to compartments and a home-made wood top on it that he could use to close it up each day to keep the barn cats out. I remember sitting on top of the wood section as he filled the main compartment with rolled high moisture corn from our Harvestsore silo and the front part was filled with soybean meal. He looked at a DHIA production sheet from the previous milk test which told him how much milk each cow was producing. On that sheet he marked up “full scoop” or “half scoop”. I remember playing in these farm grown commodities like I was in a sand box as dad pushed the feed cart around the barn and manually top dressed the cows, feeding them according to production.
Brad Biehl – 1985 playing in a wagon load of High Moisture Shelled Corn as his grandmother, Mildred Biehl, unloads the wagon into the farm’s Harvestore silo.
5 hours later, sweated, frustrated, I finally got all of the HMC out of the bin, the flex auger, and robot feeding system. It was a disaster. However, I knew I could not give up. I then sent emails outlining my project problem statement to 2 different feeding / grain handling companies. Both replied and told me what I wanted to do was too challenging…and neither vendor showed interest.