Oct. 18 2017 07:00 AM

Extra thought put into a robot barn design is time well spent.

As we have settled into our new robotic facility these last nine months, I have never once regretted the time we spent researching ahead of time. In fact, it is the number one thing I tell those considering robotics. After working in the barn, I am really appreciating the extra time we put into the design and flow of the building.

When we sat down at the drawing board for our barn layout, we had two main goals in mind. Cow flow and comfort were first and then the ease in which one person could work the entire barn. All of our decisions were based on these two main areas.

The criteria that each farm considers as they look at robotics is going to be different. But I really encourage you to look at those two areas. You are not gaining any efficiency if you end up with a design that requires even more work to easily move, catch, or sort cows. A robotic barn that is designed well should be easy and comfortable to work in, for both the cows and the people.

I know that these design concepts can be more easily achieved in a new facility. But they can also be drivers for design decisions that need to be made in retrofits as well. You even have the advantage of being able to visualize and walk through the proposed plan in your existing facility. Take the time to really look at it and make sure it feels like a good fit. A retrofit can be just as functional if you find those key areas that are important to your farm and let them rule the design process.

It is an exciting time for the dairy industry and technology. As we look at these advances in improving herd health, we need to not lose the basics of why we are changing. Design plays a crucial role in the comfort of both cows and people. Make sure you are taking the time to find the right fit for your needs.

Darleen Sichley

The author is a third-generation dairy farmer from Oregon where she farms in partnership with her husband and parents. As a mother of two young boys who round out the family run operation as micro managers, Darleen blogs about the three generations of her family working together at Guernsey Dairy Mama. Abiqua Acres Mann's Guernsey Dairy is currently home to 90 registered Guernseys and is in the process of transitioning to a robotic milking system.