Each year, AgrAbility PA works with dairy farmers throughout the state to make recommendations on assistive technology devices that are available to help in and around the dairy barn.
Some of these options include:
Rail system: This system acts as a carrier for the milking units in a tie stall barn and allows for the use of automatic takeoffs. With this system the farmer does not have to carry or lift the milking units. Rather, they run on an overhead track from the milk house to the stalls where the cows are milked. The units can be easily attached to the milk pipeline and to the cow while the weight is still held by the rail. This reduces the wear and tear on a farmer’s back and shoulders.
Automatic takeoffs: With a rail system, automatic takeoffs can be installed to release the milking unit from the udder of the cow when she is done milking. The unit is pulled up and away from the cow, ready to be moved along the rail to the next cow, greatly reducing the amount of squatting and bending that is required to check the cow and remove the milking unit. Automatic takeoffs can eliminate at least 100 instances of squatting or bending per day and can help conserve joints. Even in a parlor setting, there are many reasons to install automatic takeoffs.
Gutter Grates: Installing gutter grates may seem like a simple idea, but for farmers with mobility impairments, gutter grates can make a huge difference. Gutter grates cover the gutters that run behind the cows in a tie stall barn. The gutters can be difficult to step across; as such, they are a safety concern. The installation of gutter grates reduces the need to step across the gutter, thereby preventing trips and falls, while still allowing manure to be captured in the gutter.
Milk Taxi: A piece of assistive technology to help feed calves is a milk taxi, calf mobile, or milk shuttle. Options for these devices range from small and simple to large and complex. Although there are many makes and models, the general concept includes an insulated or heated milk storage tank on wheels with an easy dispensing system. This tool can easily transport milk from the milk house to the calves. It eliminates lifting or carrying heavy buckets and saves time by reducing the number of trips back and forth. Devices with a heating option can as keep milk warm for longer periods, allowing a farmer to work at a slower pace if needed. Most of these tools are also designed with self-cleaning or easy-to-clean setups.
Other dairy related assistive technology includes crowd gates, air operated entry and exit gates in a parlor, motorized feed carts, cushioned mats on the parlor floor and, yes, cow monitoring systems.
Farmers often hesitate at the thought of changing the way they have milked their whole life and the logistics and finances can also cause some stress. However, many AgrAbility PA clients who modify their milking routine share that they wish they would not have waited so long before making the change. These modifications truly make a significant difference in a farmer’s day-to-day routine around the barn.